Obituary: Central City Opera Artistic Director John Moriarty Dies at 91

By Francisco Salazar

On Jan. 5, Central City Opera’s Artistic Director Emeritus John Moriarty died in his home located in Fall River, Mass at the age of 91.

Born on Sept. 30, 1930, Moriarty received his Bachelor of Music in 1952 with the highest honors and an honorary Doctor of Music in 1992 from the New England Conservatory of Music. He studied at Brandeis University and Mills College and studied piano with Egon Petri, Paolo Denza, and Carlo Zecchi. He also studied French vocal literature with Pierre Bernac.

A renowned conductor, stage director, vocal coach, collaborative pianist, author, educator, and administrator Moriarty began his career with the Central City Opera in 1978 when he was brought to conduct and to create what is now known as the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Artists Training Program, an intensive program for up-and-coming opera performers.

In 1982 he became the Central City Opera’s artistic director and conducted four productions of “The Ballad of Baby Doe” in 1981, 1988, 1996 and the 50th Anniversary production in 2006, the 2000 production of “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” “Vanessa” in 2005 and the world premiere of “Gabriel’s Daughter” in 2003.

To celebrate his 30th anniversary with the company, a street next to the opera house in Central City was renamed Moriarty Lane. After more than 40 years with Central City Opera, Moriarty officially retired in 2011.

Outside of his work at the Central City Opera, Moriarty’s first professional opera position was with Santa Fe Opera, where he also founded an artist training program. He also worked with the Wolf Trap Opera, Boston Conservatory of Music, and New England Conservatory.

He frequently conducted master-classes and workshops across the United States and at the National Association of Teachers of Singing national convention. He also performed as a piano soloist with the Boston Pops, the Boston Civic Symphony, and the Radio Éireann Orchestra of Dublin and made several recordings, including conducting the first recording of Händel’s opera “Tamerlano.”

The New England Conservatory created the John Moriarty Presidential Scholarship to support the studies of opera singers and the John Moriarty Encouragement Award are named in his honor. The John Moriarty Award of the Central City Opera is named in his honor and annually presented at the final performance of the festival.

Colorado Governor Roy Romer also declared June 17, 1998 as John Moriarty Day and in 1985, he was honored with a Tribute from the Colorado General Assembly.