In Memoriam 2019: Remembering Those That Passed This Year

By Francisco Salazar
( Friedman

While there was a lot to celebrate in 2019, there was also a lot to mourn. The final year of the decade brought about the end of the lives of many notable figures of the opera world. Here is a look at some of the many figures we lost this year.

Jessye Norman

The renowned soprano passed at 74. Norman dominated the German repertoire throughout her legendary career, particularly in the operas of Wagner and Strauss. Later in her career she transitioned away from soprano roles and into the mezzo repertory. Among her major career milestones were four Grammy Awards from 15 nominations.

Full obituary here.

Andre Previn

The influential composer and conductor passed at the age of 89, leaving behind some of the most iconic contemporary works of his generation. Nominated for four Academy Awards and winner of 10 Grammys, Previn went on to write two important operas “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Brief Encounter” and engaged in many fruitful collaborations with the likes of Renée Fleming, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Janet Baker, Yuri Bashmet, Fleming, Yo-Yo Ma, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Itzhak Perlman, and John Williams.

Full obituary here.

Theo Adam

The great German bass died at the age of 92 after a major career at the Royal Opera House, Wiener Staatsoper, Theater an der Wien, Salzburg Festival, and Metropolitan Opera. He was one of the most admired Wagnerians of his generation and a great exponent of the German repertoire.

Full obituary here.

Peter Schreier

Opera singer and conductor Peter Schreier passed at age 84 after a career that included major appearances with the Berlin State Opera, Milan’s La Scala, and even a 25-year run at the famed Salzburg Festival. He was a specialist in performing and recording music of Schubert and Schumann.

Full obituary here.

Eva Kleinitz

The director Of Opéra National Du Rhin passed away at the age of 47, cutting her prolific work short. Kleinitz was an important administrator who participated in numerous competition juries and worked with some of the most important directors and conductors. She also collaborated with some of the best European houses including La Monnaie and the Bregenz Festival.
Full obituary here.

Franco Zeffirelli 

The legendary director passed away at age 96, having led some of the most iconic opera productions of all time at the world’s most renowned companies. He directed a number of renowned films, including “Romeo and Juliette.”  Moreover, the Italian auteur wasn’t finished yet and was preparing a forthcoming production of “Rigoletto” for the Royal Opera House Muscat.

Full obituary here.

Francisco Casanova 

Casanova passed at 61 from health issues. Born in the Dominican Republic, he carved out a major international career in a total of 56 leading tenor roles, including 22 by Giuseppe Verdi. His signature roles included Jew Élèazar, Mario Cavaradossi, Manrico, Arrigo both in “I Vespri Siciliani and “La Battaglia di Legnano,” Riccardo in “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Enzo Grimaldo, Didier in “Marion Delorme,” Jacopo Foscari, and Avito in “L’Amore dei Tre Re.”

Full obituary here.

Marcello Giordani

The Italian Tenor passed at age 56 from a heart attack, bringing his life and career to a sudden end. The tenor had a solid international career but was perhaps best known for his triumphs at the Metropolitan Opera where he debuted and would go on to appear in over 241 performances in works by Puccini, Verdi, Massenet, Bizet, Berlioz, and Zandonai. He was also featured in the company’s Live in HD series eight times.

Full obituary here.

Helga Schmidt

Schmidt left behind a great legacy as one of the most influential arts administrators, working with such important companies as the Royal Opera and the Palau de les Arts. She was also instrumental in the careers of young singers and discovering new voices such as Maria Agresta, Olga Peretyatko, and Erwin Schrott.

Full obituary here.

Rolando Panerai

The legendary baritone passed away at the age of 95. Having sung with the likes of Maria Callas and Giuseppe di Stefano, Panerai was a versatile artist who performed more than 150 roles including many of Verdi’s unknown works. He was best known for his interpretations of “Gianni Schicchi” and “Falstaff.”

Full obituary here.

Jonathan Miller 

At the age of 85 the great director passed away, leaving behind legendary productions of such works “La Bohème,” “Aida,” “Rigoletto,” “The Barber of Seville,” “The Mikado,” “Carmen,” “Der Rosenkavalier,” “La Traviata” and “The Elixir of Love.” Miller was best-known for his work with the English National Opera where he had a four decade association.

Full obituary here.

Mariss Jansons 

After a longstanding heart condition, the beloved Latvian conductor passed at the age of 76. Jansons conducted numerous orchestras including the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra where he was Chief Conductor before his passing. He worked with a number of great artists and left some very well-known recordings as part of his artistic legacy.

Full obituary here.

The year also saw the passing of Joseph Ward, Michele Wilma, Umberto Grilli, Bayreuth spokeperson Peter Emmerich, Coloratura soprano Deborah Cook, Ekkehard Wlaschiha, Ida Heinrich, Ivan Sardi,  Nikola Mitic, Sanford Sylvan, Lynton Black, Dominik Argento, Gloria Zea, Anthony Frisell, Heather Harper, Mark Richter, and Sidwell Hartman.

Tenor Miguel Sierra, Alexander Sotnikov, Austrian soprano Wilma Lipp, Countertenor Donald Grayston Burgees, tenor Sergei Balashov, Joshua Hecht, Erika Wien, Giuliana Castellani, Mika Shigematsu, John Wakefield, Yeoryia Megremis, Paula Goodman Wilder, John Wegner, Andrejs Žagars, Spiro Malas, pianist Dalton Baldwin, and Giuseppe Bellanca were also artists who died.

Others who passed away included Joseph Rouleau, Marcus L. Overton, Robert Orth, Benjamin Ray  Tom Martinsen, Adelaida Negri,  Ludmilla Andrew, Jan Buchwald, Timothy Leigh Evans, Jaco Huijpen, Jaime Martínez González-Río, and Irina Bogacheva.

We will never forget these wonderful artists and their music and artistry will forever live on.


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