Ukrainian bass Vitalij Kowaljow made his San Francisco Opera debut as Sparafucile in the 2001 production of Rigoletto and returned in 2008 as Jacopo Fiesco (Simon Boccanegra) and Pimen (Boris Godunov) and in 2011 as Alfonso d’Este (Lucrezia Borgia). The bass, who began his professional life as a fireman, has performed more than forty-five roles, including Philip II (Don Carlos); Banquo (Macbeth); Zaccaria (Nabucco); Ramfis (Aida); Padre Guardiano (La Forza del Destino); Walter (Luisa Miller); and the title role of Attila. Kowaljow made his U.S. debut with the Opera Orchestra of New York as Baldassarre (La Favorita) and has since appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Opera Colorado, and the Opera Company of Philadelphia. He regularly appears at the Met, where he has sung Padre Guardiano, Walter, Ramfis, Oroveso (Norma), and Sarastro (The Magic Flute). Recent engagements include Wotan (Das Rheingold and Die Walküre) and the Wanderer (Siegfried) with Los Angeles Opera, Wotan (Die Walküre) at Milan’s La Scala and in Dresden; Giorgio (I Puritani) at the Vienna State Opera; Gremin (Eugene Onegin) with Lyric Opera of Chicago; and Zaccaria and Padre Guardiano in Munich.