One of the great tragedies of 2016 was losing tenor Johan Botha in the midst of his vocal prime. At just 51 years of age, he still had, at the very least, a few solid years of singing to impart on us.
Those who heard Botha will rarely forget his beautiful tenor, a delicate instrument by nature capable of ripping through any orchestra with a strength and force, but without ever losing its essential beauty.
On this day, August 19, which would have been his 52nd birthday, we will look back at the roles that made him so great.
While he was mainly known for his Wagner interpretations, there is no doubt that the tenor also made successful forays into the Verdi canon, none more successful than his interpretation of the moor. He sang it a number of times throughout his career, but his most famous interpretation came at the Metropolitan Opera where he sang alongside Renée Fleming for an HD performance that was later released on DVD. He sang the opera for the last time in Salzburg in March 2016.
Few dominated the role of Siegmund the way Botha did, the tenor managing to give the famed Wagnerian hero a truly lyrical edge that few others have ever managed. “Johan Botha is known for his mellifluous voice rather than his acting skills, but on this occasion he captured something of Siegmund’s mixture of defiance and tenderness without losing his vocal finesse,” wrote David Larkin of Bachtrack.” His last go at the role was in June 2016 in Budapest.
Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg
The tenor was perfect for the role of Walther, his gentle timbre ideal for Wagner’s precious lyric writing for the character. He sang it a few times throughout his career, his final appearance in the role coming in 2014 at the Metropolitan Opera.
Die Frau Ohne Schatten
Few artists can claim to conquer the difficult Strauss role, but Botha put together a number of performances throughout 2013-14 in Munich and London. His interpretation in London was hailed as “statuesque” and “sturdily sung.”
What was your favorite Johan Botha interpretation?