Obituary: Metropolitan Opera Bass John Macurdy Dies at 91

By Francisco Salazar

Bass John Macurdy died at the age of 91 on May 7, 2020 in Stamford, Connecticut.

The bass who was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 18, 1929 studied with contralto Elisabeth Wood and made his debut with the New Orleans Opera Association during the 1952–53 season opening as the Old Hebrew in “Samson et Dalila” alongside Ramón Vinay and Blanche Thebom.

Macurdy would return to the company on numerous occasions until 1959 and later in 1979 in such operas a “Thaïs,” “Die Entführung aus dem Serail,” “The Consul,” “Norma,” and “Die Zauberflöte.”

In 1959, he made his New York City Opera debut in “Street Scene” and went on to sing with the company until 1962  in such works as “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” “The Ballad of Baby Doe,” “La Bohème,” “Turandot,” “The Cradle Will Rock,” “Aida,” and the Reverend John Hale in “The Crucible.” He returned for one performance in 1979.

In 1962 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Tom in “Un ballo in maschera” and performed with the company until 1997. In total he sang more than 1,000 performances with the organization in such works as “Turandot,” “Faust,” “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” “Aida,” “La Sonnambula,” “Il Trovatore” “Eugene Onegin” “Manon” “Götterdämmerung” and “Rigoletto.” He also starred in the world premiere of “Antony and Cleopatra.”

Outside of the USA, Macurdy performed at the Opéra de Paris, Teatro alla Scala, Teatro Colón, and Salzburg Festival. He also performed in Lyon, Orange, Marseille, and Strasbourg

Outside of Macurdy’s standard repertoire, he was well-known for starring in a number of world premieres including Carlisle Floyd’s “Wuthering Heights” at the Santa Fe Opera, “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” and Abraham Ellstein’s “The Golem” at the New York City Opera.

He also went on to work with some of the most distinguished soloists in the world including Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, Montserrat Caballé, Ruggero Raimondi, Renata Scotto, Franco Corelli, Tatiana Troyanos, Eva Marton, and Leontyne Price, among others.

Among the recordings he left behind are “The Crucible” and Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” conducted by Karl Böhm. He is also featured on Berlioz’s “Béatrice et Bénédict” with Ileana Cotrubaș and Plácido Domingo. He also appears on the legendary recording of “Otello” with Katia Ricciarelli, Domingo, and Justino Díaz. He also appeared in a number of Metropolitan Opera broadcasts and telecasts.

Here he is in “Faust.”