Joaquin Romaguera, an operatic tenor known to the world as the original Pirelli in Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler's Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, has passed away. He was 90 years old, according to an online obituary.
Born in Key West, Florida, Mr. Romaguera was a member of the New York City Opera company throughout the 1960s, '70s, and '80s, where he created roles in several NYCO world premieres, including The Dead Man in Hugo Weisgall's Nine Rivers from Jordan, and Professor Risselberg in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Most Important Man.
Outside of his multi-decade association with the NYCO, Mr. Romaguera performed with the Opera Society of Washington, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the San Diego Opera, the Opera Company of Boston, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and the Baltimore Opera Company.
In 1979, Mr. Romaguera made his Broadway debut as the secondary antagonist Adolfo Pirelli in Sweeney Todd, where his full throated tenor voice caught the imagination of Sondheim fans throughout the ages. While Mr. Romaguera's performance can be heard on the original Broadway cast recording, he did not appear in the 1982 filmed production, having already returned to the opera world following the closing of the original Broadway production in 1980 (the filming was captured during the production's first national tour).
He returned to the musical theatre stage, this time Off-Broadway, in 1987, where his performance in Cole Porter's Gay Divorce netted him a nomination for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical. Later that same year, he played Robinet in the musical Mademoiselle Colombe, before again returning to the opera stage. In 1994 he portrayed Mr. Lopez in Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's Fiorello! for the first season of Encores! at the New York City Center. His final musical theatre performance came in 2000, when he portrayed Magaldi in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita at Broadway Sacramento.
Mr. Romaguera's life partner, Robert W. Cybula, was a Broadway hair and wig designer; the pair collaborated on designs for the 1998 Broadway revival of Peter Pan. Mr. Cybula passed away in 2000. Mr. Romaguera spent the last two decades of his life in his native Florida, directing local productions. He is survived by his children, Racine, Pallas, and Kiko, as well as his extended family.