In Memoriam - Twilight of the Divas: Schwarzkopf, Moffo, Varnay, Hunt Lieberson Among the Departed of 2006 | Playbill

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Classic Arts Features In Memoriam - Twilight of the Divas: Schwarzkopf, Moffo, Varnay, Hunt Lieberson Among the Departed of 2006 Among the distinguished figures in classical music and dance who passed away in 2006, it's the leading ladies who come most to mind.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, whose gleaming voice and meticulous artistry set a powerfully high standard, especially in the art song repertoire (whatever her personal failings may have been). The effervescent Anna Moffo, who once brought such charm and beauty (vocal and physical) to lyric and coloratura soprano roles. Astrid Varnay, whose vocal power and dramatic passion blazed so brightly in Wagner and Strauss.

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, who combined a genuinely sweet mezzo-soprano voice with an artistic commitment and intensity that moved everyone who saw and heard her perform — and whose untimely death at age 52, still at the peak of her powers, sent a wave of sadness through the classical music community.

And then there was the divine Anna Russell, whose inspired musical satire can still make listeners howl with laughter.

Not all the leading ladies we lost this year were singers, of course. The ballet world said farewell to Melissa Hayden, who so fired the imagination of George Balachine, and Moira Shearer, who had a brilliant career with Great Britain's Royal Ballet in addition to her immortal star turn in the film The Red Shoes.

Dika Newlin was a leading lady of a different sort: a fearsomely intelligent composer and professor who, in her 70s, remade herself into Richmond's punk-rock goddess.

The prominent musical figures who "fell in action" this were men. (It almost always happens that way, doesn't it?) Michel Bernstein, the French record producer responsible for most of the formidable Astr_e catalogue, died during a recording session. Conductor Armin Jordan collapsed on the podium while leading Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges in Basel and never recovered. Bernard Fabre-Garrus, who directed the estimable Renaissance ensemble A Sei Voci, had a heart attack just two hours before a concert — and his musicians went ahead with the performance in his honor.

And so, below, a list of some of the notable individuals to whom we bid farewell this year.


Arturo Sergi, 80, tenor who sang leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, Bayreuth and other companies for two decades. January 3; no cause of death reported.

David Weber, 92, a clarinetist who played at the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera before serving as principal clarinetist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra for 22 years. January 23; no cause of death reported.

Herta Glaz, 95, mezzo-soprano who sang over 300 performances at the Metropolitan Opera over a 14-year span. January 28; no cause of death reported.

Ludovic Spiess, 67, Romanian tenor who enjoyed a 14-year performing career before becoming Romania's minister of culture and serving as director of the Romanian Opera. January 28, while hunting.

Rebecca Wright, 58, former dancer with the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre and director of the Washington School of Ballet. January 29, of cancer.

Moira Shearer, 80, British ballerina who was a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet before starring as Victoria Page in the ballet film The Red Shoes. January 31; no cause of death reported.


Carolyn Bailey Argento, 75, soprano who premiered many works by her husband, composer Dominick Argento. February 2, of a neurological disorder.

Martin Feinstein, 84, opera impresario who served as the first executive director of the Kennedy Center and as general manager of the Washington Opera. February 5; no cause of death reported.

Hugh Thompson, 90, baritone who sang with the New York City Opera and in 238 performances with the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s and 1950s. February 7; no cause of death reported.

James B. Caldwell, 67, former principal oboist of the National Symphony and teacher at Oberlin Conservatory for over three decades. February 8, of lung cancer.

Dai Ailian, 89, leading figure in Chinese ballet who founded the Beijing Dance Academy and directed China's National Ballet (though she was born in Trinidad and spoke no Chinese until into her 20s). February 9; no cause of death reported.

Benjamin F. Matthews, 72, bass-baritone who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, and New York Philharmonic and founded New York's Ebony Opera. February 14; no cause of death reported.

Berton Siegel, 80, violinist who played in the St. Louis Symphony, New Orleans Philharmonic, and Cleveland Orchestra in a career spanning over 40 years. February 15; no cause of death reported.

Ray Barretto, 76, a leading percussionist in salsa and jazz groups for over half a century. February 17, of heart disease and pneumonia.

Frank Little, 69, tenor and arts administrator who sang at the Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera before turning his focus to teaching in 1970. February 22; no cause of death reported.

Roland L. Kohloff, 71, principal timpanist of the New York Philharmonic for 32 years following 16 years as principal timpanist with the San Francisco Symphony. February 24, of cancer.

Milton Katims, 96, conductor and violinist who was music director of the Seattle Symphony for more than two decades, transforming it into a full-time professional ensemble. February 27; no cause of death reported.


Frank Merkling, 82, editor of Opera News for 17 years. March 4; no cause of death reported.

Lily Dumont Mindus, 94, German pianist who performed with the Berlin Philharmonic before relocating to the United States, where she became a Boston-area institution. March 6; no cause of death reported.

Anthony Camden, 68, chairman of the London Symphony Orchestra, where he had played oboe and served as an administrator since 1968. March 7, of a motor neuron disorder.

Anna Moffo, 73, American soprano celebrated for her radiant voice, dazzling looks and acting ability; enjoyed a major career at U.S. opera companies and on disc before a deterioration of her voice in the late 1960s. March 9, of a stroke and breast cancer.

Narvin Kimball, 97, banjo player and singer who was the last surviving original member of New Orleans's Preservation Hall Jazz Band. March 17; no cause of death reported.

Anselmo Colzani, 87, Italian baritone who sang frequently at La Scala and gave more than 200 performances at the Metropolitan Opera over 16 seasons. March 19, following a long illness.

Jackie McLean, 74, saxophonist who established a pioneering jazz program at the Hartt School of Music in Hartford. March 31; no cause of death reported.


Richard Pearlman, 68, director of Lyric Opera of Chicago's Center for American Artists and former director of the Opera Theatre at Eastman School of Music. April 8, of cancer.

Robin Orr, 96, composer and organist who served as the first chairman of Scottish Opera. April 9; no cause of death reported.

Natalia Troitskaya, 55, soprano who sang with the Vienna State Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Bavarian State Opera and other companies. April 9; no cause of death reported.

Anthony Yannuzzi, 76, music director emeritus of the Baltimore Opera Company. April 10, of pneumonia.

Marianna Christos, 58, soprano who sang principal roles at New York City Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Diego Opera. April 15, of complications from multiple myeloma.

Alan Traverse, 68, English violinist who served as co-concertmaster of the Houston Symphony for 17 years. April 21, of Parkinson's disease and heart disease.

Leighton Kerner, 79, award-winning music critic who wrote for The Village Voice for more than four decades. April 29, of a heart attack following a stroke.


Robert Zimmer, 78, violinist who played for 14 years with the Indianapolis Symphony and 36 years with the Cleveland Orchestra. May 5; no cause of death reported.

Edward Aldwell, 68, pianist and Bach scholar who performed frequently and taught at the Mannes School in New York and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. May 7, of injuries from an automobile accident.

Archie Drake, 81, bass-baritone who was a stalwart of Seattle Opera, singing 109 roles in more than 1,000 performances over 39 seasons. May 24, of a heart attack.


Richard Kapp, 69, conductor and founder of the New York-based chamber orchestra Philharmonia Virtuosi. June 4, of cancer.

Hilton Ruê_z, 54, jazz pianist who led his own combos and performed with such greats as Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus and Tito Puente; known for equal facility in Latin and standard jazz. June 5, following several weeks in a coma after being found on Bourbon Street in New Orleans with fractures of the skull and face.

Elizabeth Fretwell, 85, Australia soprano who was a major star of the Sadler's Wells Opera in London and the Australian Opera in Sydney. June 5; no cause of death reported.

Daniel Steiner, 72, president of New England Conservatory, and the first non-musician to lead the school. June 11, of chronic lung disease.

Hiroyuki Iwaki, 73, for 15 years chief conductor of the Melbourne Symphony, where his enthusiasm for contemporary music earned him the nickname "premiere maniac," and who, at age 72, conducted a marathon Beethoven symphony cycle in Tokyo on New Year's Eve 2004/05. June 13, following an unnamed illness, though he had battled both lung and throat cancer.

Howard Shanet, 87, composer, conductor and professor who taught at Columbia University for 25 years. June 19; no cause of death reported.

Maurice Bevan, 85, bass-baritone and specialist in early music who sang with the Deller Consort for more than 40 years. June 20; no cause of death reported.

Mark Ray, 44, head of the keyboard studies department at the UK's Royal norther College of Music. June 21, in a drowning accident.

Charles Farncombe, 86, conductor who played a key role in the 20th-century revival of Handel's operas in the UK. June 30; no cause of death reported.

Joyce Hatto, 77, described by critic Richard Dyer as "the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of"; gave up public performance in 1976 due to the effects of cancer treatment on her appearance, though she continued to record. June 30, following a decades-long struggle with cancer.


Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, 52, mezzo-soprano revered by audiences and music professionals for the shimmering beauty of her voice as well as the integrity and intensity, both musical and dramatic, of her performances. July 3, of cancer.

Ruth Schonthal, 82, German-Mexican-American composer of operas, song cycles, chamber music and symphonies. July 10, of a heart attack.

Mary Day, 96, co-founder of the Washington School of Ballet and the grand dame of the classical dance scene in the US capital. July 11, of heart disease.

Charles Dakin, 76, English composer who wrote symphonies, chamber music and songs. July 13, in an auto accident.

Manuel Ochoa, 80, founder and music director of the Miami Symphony, the orchestra traditionally associated with South Florida's Latin American community. July 15, of heart failure.

Dika Newlin, 82, composer, professor and music critic who, late in life, became a punk rocker, Elvis impersonator, cult-film actress and all-around mad genius. July 22, of complications from a broken arm.

John Mack, 78, principal oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra for 36 years and a renowned teacher. July 23, of brain cancer.

Heinrich Hollreiser, 93, versatile, widely-traveled opera conductor who served as principal Kapellmeister at the Vienna State Opera from 1952-1961. July 24; no cause of death reported.

James H. Schwabacher, 86, co-founder and chairman of the Merola Opera Program, the training course for young singers at San Francisco Opera. July 25, of complications from pneumonia.


Jeffrey Kneebone, 47, baritone with an active career at regional companies in the US. August 1, of melanoma.

Aaron Brock, 31, Canadian guitarist with a growing solo career and a professor at Toronto's Royal Conservatory. August 3, of unexpected heart failure while sleeping.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, 90, considered one of the 20th century's greatest singers, a lyric soprano equally at home in opera and art song, with an extensive catalogue of recordings on EMI; faced down persistent controversy over her youthful membership in the Nazi Party. August 3; no cause of death reported.

Daniel Schmid, 64, Swiss film and opera director who made the documentary Tosca's Kiss, about a home in Italy for retired opera singers. August 5, of cancer.

Duke Jordan, 84, jazz pianist who did pioneering work in Charlie Parker's combo alongside Miles Davis and Max Roach. August 8; no cause of death reported.

Melissa Hayden, 83, a star of New York City Ballet famous for her work in George Balanchine's dances. August 9, of pancreatic cancer.

Charles Barr, 31, bassist with the Cleveland Orchestra. August 11, struck and killed by a truck while riding a bicycle.

Milton Kaye, 97, pianist and arranger whose career ranged from accompanying Jascha Heifetz to playing organ on The Rootie Kazootie Show. August 14, of pneumonia.

Roy Tobias, 78, founding member of New York City Ballet and teacher who played a key role in the development of Western ballet in Japan and Korea. August 16, of complications from a chronic condition that made it difficult for him to eat.

Bernard Fabre-Garrus, 62, French baritone and conductor who co-founded and directed the vocal ensemble A Sei Voci, which specializes in Renaissance and early Baroque repertoire. August 19, apparently of a heart attack just two hours before a concert.

Bismillah Khan, 90, virtuoso on the shehnai (Indian oboe) and a leading light of Indian classical music; gave a televised recital every year on India's Independence Day. August 21, of heart failure.

George Edwards (George Edward Steinhardt), 84, for 40 years host of the "Bright and Early" show on the New York classical radio station WQXR. August 21; no cause of death reported.

Maynard Ferguson, 78, legendary jazz trumpeter. August 23, of kidney and liver failure following an abdominal infection.

L_opold Simoneau, 90, considered the great Mozart tenor of the 1950s and '60s; after his retirement from the stage, an admired teacher and co-founder (with his wife, soprano Pierrette Alarie) of Canada Opera Piccolo in British Columbia. August 24; no cause of death reported.

James Tenney, 72, American experimental composer of whom critic Kyle Gann wrote, "No other composer is so revered by fellow composers, and so unknown to the public at large." August 24, of lung cancer.

John Weinzweig, 93, composer and professor considered the "dean" of Canada's contemporary music scene and who taught many of the country's currently prominent composers. August 24, following several years of poor health.

Benjaim Rawitz, 60, Israeli-born, Brussels-based pianist and professor. August 29, beaten to death in his apartment building, evidently during a robbery.


Eva Knardahl, 79, Norwegian pianist who spent a dozen years on the Minnesota Orchestra's roster before returning home later in life to fame as both soloist and television personality. September 3; no cause of death reported.

Karl Engel, 83, Swiss a pianist who performed and recorded with some of the great soloists of the 20th century, including Menuhin, Casals and Fischer-Dieskau. September 3; no cause of death reported.

Astrid Varnay, 88, Hungarian-Swedish-American dramatic soprano whose electrifying performances in Strauss and Wagner roles thrilled audiences, colleagues, conductors and directors alike. September 4, of a pericardial infection.

Peter Greenough, 89, financial journalist and editor with The Boston Globe and the Cleveland Plain Dealer; husband of soprano and opera administrator Beverly Sills. September 6, following a long illness.

John Drummond, 71, director, at various times, of the Edinburgh International, BBC Radio 3 and the BBC Promenade Concerts; famous for his high artistic standards and notorious for his sharp tongue. September 6, of a lengthy but unnamed illness.

Norman Kelley, 95, longtime character tenor with the New York City and Metropolitan Operas; created the title role in Kurka's The Good Soldier Schweik. September 7, of Alzheimer's disease.

Ira F. Brilliant, 84, real estate developer who collected a major archive of Beethoven documents and founded a Beethoven research center at San Jose State University in California. September 10; no cause of death reported.

Armin Jordan, 74, accomplished symphonic and opera conductor who led the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande for 12 years. September 19, four days after he collapsed on the podium during a performance in Basel's opera hosue.

Malcolm Arnold, 84, prolific and popular composer of serious concert works and film scores alike; won an Academy Award in 1958 for Bridge on the River Kwai. September 23, of a chest infection and frontal lobe dementia.

Thomas Stewart, 78, commanding baritone admired for concert and operatic work alike; often performed in tandem with his wife, soprano Evelyn Lear. September 24, of a heart attack.

Alfred Mann, 89, musicologist, instrumentalist and choral conductor; expert on the 17th/18th-century composer Johann Joseph Fux and champion of the Handel revival in the US. September 21; no cause of death reported.


Edgar Summerlin, 78, saxophonist, composer, and pioneer in the field of liturgical jazz. October 10, of pneumonia resulting from cancer treatments.

Carlotta Ordassy, 85, comprimario soprano who sang well over 700 performances at the Metropolitan Opera over two decades. October 11; no cause of death reported.

Todd Bolender, 92, dancer who performed under George Balanchine at the American Ballet and New York City Ballet; co-founder of Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle in 1975; artistic director of Kansas City Ballet from 1981 to 1996. October 12, of complications from a stroke.

Anna Russell, 94, comedienne whose brilliant satirical routines on opera — especially "The Ring of the Nibelung: An Analysis" — have brought several generations of listeners to uproarious laughter. October 18; no cause of death reported.

George Goslee, 89, for more than 40 years principal bassoonist of the Cleveland Orchestra. October 19, following a stroke.

William Vickery, 57, executive director of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra who nearly tripled the organization's budget. October 20, following a heart attack.

Leonid Hambro, 86, accomplished concert pianist who also served as straight man in Victor Borge's piano comedy act; known for his prodigious memory. October 23, of complications from head and spinal injuries suffered in a fall.

Jê_zsef Gregor, 66, bass-baritone who was for decades at the center of Hungary's opera world; known for a repertoire ranging from Baroque opera to Mozart to Falstaff to Mussorgsky. October 27, following an unnamed illness that led him to retire suddenly in September.

Michel Bernstein, 75, one of France's most admired classical record producers; founder of four independent labels, including Astr_e and Arcana. October 31, of a heart attack which struck during a recording session.


Silvio Varviso, 82, conductor who served as music director of the opera houses in Basel, Stuttgart, Stockholm and Paris over the course of a 50-year career; was still principal guest conductor at Belgium's Vlaamse Opera at his death. November 1, following a brief illness.

Daniel Cariaga, 71, for three decades a classical music critic for The Los Angeles Times. November 1, of heart failure.

Ed Bradley, 65, pathbreaking African-American television journalist, known especially for his work on CBS-TV's 60 Minutes, who was also the longtime radio announcer for (and a key supporter of) Jazz at Lincoln Center. November 9, of leukemia.

Alice Preves, 65, violist with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra for nearly four decades. November 15, of liver cancer.

Frank E. Saam, 79, for 40 years a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra's first violin section. November 17, of prostate cancer.

Emanuel Hurwitz, 87, violinist who was one of Great Britain's leading chamber musicians, playing with the Hurwitz Quartet, the Melos Ensemble and the Aeolian String Quartet; also, for 20 years, concertmaster of the English Chamber Orchestra. November 19; no cause of death reported.

Robert Altman, 81, world-renowned filmmaker; also directed and co-wrote librettos for William Bolcom's operas McTeague (1992) and A Wedding (2004, based on Altman's own film) at Lyric Opera of Chicago. November 20, of leukemia.

Robert McFerrin, Sr., 85, operatic baritone and the first black male to sing at the Metropolitan Opera (in 1955); father of vocalist and conductor Bobby McFerrin. November 24, of a heart attack and after a long struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

Martha Lipton, 93, mezzo-soprano who sang character roles at the Metropolitan Opera in the 1940s and '50s as well as major roles in early performances of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia and Moore's The Ballad of Baby Doe; recorded Copland's Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson with the composer. November 28; no cause of death reported.


Richard Vernon, 53, veteran comprimario bass with the Metropolitan Opera. December 2; no cause of death reported.

Ralph Gomberg, 85, principal oboist with the Boston Symphony for 37 years. December 9, of a neuromuscular disease.

Daniel Pinkham, organist, conductor and composer whose music, especially his choral works, was always well-liked by performers and never confined to the new-music "ghetto." December 18, of leukemia.

Pnina Salzman, 84, Israel's "First Lady of the Piano" and a regular soloist with the Israel Philharmonic. December 16; no cause of death reported.

Henry Meyer, 83, violinist who survived the Holocaust and went on to co-found the LaSalle String Quartet. December 18, of heart disease.

Galina Ustvolskaya, 87, one of the last of the Soviet modernist composers, whom her teacher — Dmitri Shostakovich — called "a phenomenon." December 22, of complications from a cardiac infarction.

Stephanie von Buchau, 67, longtime music critic for several San Francisco Bay area publications as well as Opera News; well-known for her powerfully tart tongue and pen. December 18 or 19, probably from complications of diabetes.

Fernand Nault, 86, for two decades dancer and ballet master with American Ballet Theatre, then for two further decades co-artistic director and resident choreographer of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. December 26, of Parkinson's disease.


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