Obituary: Tenor Rafael Rojas Dies at 59

By Francisco Salazar

Tenor Rafael Rojas has died at the age of 59.

The Mexican tenor died on Tuesday Jan. 19, 2022 but no cause of death was revealed.

Born in Mexico, Rojas studied at the University of Guadalajara and subsequently joined the post-graduate opera course at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama‚ completing his studies at the Royal Northern College of Music.

While he was a student‚ Rojas was invited to sing Rodolfo in the British Youth Opera’s production of “La Bohème‚” and also sang the title roles in two college productions of “Roberto Devereux” and “Ernani.”

In 1995, Rojas competed in the Operalia Competition and was awarded the prestigious Domingo prize. The competition brought him acclaim and a personal invitation to sing “El Gato Montes” at the Washington Opera. Those were followed by engagements as Alfredo‚ Nemorino and Rodolfo for the Seattle Opera; Pinkerton at Glimmerglass‚ New York City and New Israeli Operas, and Werther‚ Alfredo, and Canio at the Boston Lyric Opera.

He would go on to sing at the Houston Grand Opera and in 1999 he made his European début at the Bregenz Festival as Gustavo in a new production of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera.” He would return to Bregenz and eventually made debuts at the English National Operal, Opera Zuid, and Opera Australia. He also sang at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Welsh National Opera, Opera North, Oper Leipzig, New Zealand Opera, Semperoper Dresden, and Oper Graz.

He also performed extensively in the UK‚ including concerts with the Halle Orchestra and Kent Nagano‚ and sung under the batons of Mariss Jansons with the Pittsburgh Symphony‚ and David Shallon with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.

Rojas gained international acclaim singing Italian opera in works by Puccini and Verdi as well as many verismo works. Among his signature roles were Dick Johnson in “La Fanciulla del West,” Rodolfo in “La Boheme,” Radames in “Aida,” Manrico in “Il Trovatore,” Cavaradossi in “Tosca,” and  Duca in “Rigoletto.”