Obituary: Baritone John Wegner Dies At 69

By Francisco Salazar

John Wegner has died at the age of 69 of Parkinson’s Disease.

When the baritone was first diagnosed in 2015, he told Advance Rehab Centre, “It was gut wrenching, I didn’t know much about it. The first thing you ask is how long to you have it before you’re really bad?” “Luckily I spoke to a Parkinson’s voice therapist and she had a great attitude. ‘Oh, if you wanted to get a neurological disease you’d pick Parkinson’s because at least you can fight back a bit’ she told me. I was very quiet about it for a month or so. I didn’t tell very many people except family and close friends and I really didn’t want it in the media. After a while I relaxed and now I am quite open to people knowing about it.”

Born in Germany, Wegner was raised in Australia by an elder brother after his mother died when he was five. He completed his studies at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, Australia and went on to perform with the Australian Opera as a Bass for 11 years before moving to Europe to study the Helden Baritone repertoire at the Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe. 

He made his European debut as Jochanaan in “Salome” and became a member of Deutsche Oper am Rhein. He went on to perform numerous roles with the company, including Wotan/Wanderer, Prus in “The Makropulos Affair,” Jochanaan in “Salome,” Escamillo in “Carmen,” de Flores in “Vipern,” and the King in “Hamlet.”

Wegner also performed in Milan, London, Düsseldorf, Stuttgart, Berlin, Brussels, Prague, Oslo, Munich, Hamburg, Vienna and Japan. He won four National “Best Male Performer in an Opera” Awards in Australia and two Best Male Opera Performer Green Room awards in the State of Victoria.

At the 2009 Helpmann Awards, he also won the “Best Male in a Supporting Role in an Opera” and in 2007, he was awarded the National Theatre Prague “Singer of the Year” Award.

John Wegner went on to leave a few recordings including a DVD with Joan Sutherland in Cilea’s “Adriana Lecouvreur.”

Here is Wegner as Wotan.