Obituary: Bass-Baritone Jake Gardner Dies at 73

By Francisco Salazar

Bass-baritone Jake Gardner has died at the age of 73.

Throughout his career, Gardner was sought-after at major theaters and held a position as principal baritone with Oper der Stadt Köln for a decade. From there, he went on to perform internationally with the Wiener Volksoper, Semperoper Dresden, Glyndebourne Festival, De Nederlandse Opera, and Edinburgh Festival.

In the United States, he performed at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, and Florida Grand Opera, among others.

Some of his career highlights included a world tour and film of Peter Brook’s “Le Tragédie de Carmen,” a historical production of “Così fan Tutte” with Trevor Nunn and Simon Rattle at the Glyndebourne Festival, and the world premiere of William Bolcom’s “A Wedding” directed by Robert Altman commemorating Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 50th Anniversary season.

His operatic repertoire was extensive and included works by Verdi, Tchaikovsky, Weber, Puccini, Donizetti, Massenet, Wagner, and Rossini, among others.

Outside of his operatic work, he was also a great interpreter of operetta and musical theater. He appeared in “Annie Get Your Gun” and “The Music Man” with the Glimmerglass Festival, “The Merry Widow” with Los Angeles Opera, “A Little Night Music” with Hawai’i Opera Theater, and “Die Fledermaus” and “HMS Pinafore” with Virginia Opera. He was particularly well-known for his portrayal of Judge Turpin in “Sweeney Todd” which he performed at the Virginia Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Mill City Summer Opera, and Eugene Opera.

Recently, Gardner was performing at regional houses such as the Indianapolis Opera where he world premiered a production of Richard Auldon Clark’s and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Happy Birthday Wanda June,” and celebrated his 100th role performance as the Hermit in “Der Freischütz” for Virginia Opera.

He celebrated the Anchorage Opera’s 55th Anniversary in a gala concert and was a frequent guest of Opera San Antonio, Piedmont Opera, Eugen Opera, Hawai’i Opera, and Florida Grand Opera.

During a 2017-18 production of Virginia Opera’s “La Fanciulla del West,” OperaWire noted that Gardner’s Ashby “was sung and acted with authority.”

Gardner is survived by his wife Jill Gardner, a soprano with which he performed constantly with.