Obituary: Robert Orth Passes Away At 72

By Nicole Kuchta

Baritone Robert Orth passed away at the age of 72 on July 12, 2019 in Libertyville, IL.

Orth found joy in singing from a young age, participating in church and school choirs. Prior to pursuing a full-time singing career for himself in 1974, he taught music at public schools in his hometown of Chicago.

Orth prided himself in being “the best baritone in his price range,” as he puts it in his website biography, as well as a “devoted family man.” He performed at esteemed opera houses across the U.S., and appeared regularly with Central City Opera from 1983 – 2016. He was named Artist of the Year by both the New York City Opera and Seattle Opera.

Throughout his career, he created roles and led premieres for numerous contemporary American operas. Credits include Richard Nixon in John Adams’ “Nixon in China,” John Buchanan, Jr. in Lee Hoiby’s “Summer and Smoke,” Fantomas in Stanley Silverman’s “Hotel for Criminals,” the title role of Stewart Wallace’s “Harvey Milk,” Lodger in Dominic Argento’s “The Aspen Papers,” Father in Hugo Weissgall’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author,” Owen Hart in Jake Heggie’s “Dean Man Walking,” Uncle John in Ricky Ian Gordon’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” Mr. Godby in Andre Previn’s “Brief Encounter,” and Mr. Stubb in Heggie’s “Moby Dick,” to name just a few. He received a Christopher Keene Award for taking on “new and unusual repertoire.”

As for popular operatic repertoire, the baritone frequently appeared as Figaro in “The Barber of Seville,” Eisenstein in “Die Fledermaus,” Malatesta in “Don Pasquale,” Danilo in “The Merry Widow,” Germont in “La Traviata,” and Sharpless in “Madama Butterfly.”

Additionally, Orth enjoyed musicals, appearing as Don Quixote in “Man of La Mancha,” Billy Bigelow in “Carousel,” El Gallo in “The Fantasticks, Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” and Fredrik in “A Little Night Music.”

“God bless Bob,” Ricky Ian Gordon wrote in a Facebook post published on July 13. “He was the meaning of a good person, warm, kind, generous . . . one hundred percent loving and supportive. Talented. Imaginative. Funny. Mischievous. Everything.”