7 September 2006

Norman Kelley, 95, Versatile American Tenor Who Premiered Several New Roles at City Opera, Has Died

Eddington, ME, August 27, 1911 - Rockland, MA, September 4, 2006

Kelley
Norman Kelley
OPERA NEWS Archives
Norman Kelley, 96, a multifaceted American tenor whose career included three seasons at the Metropolitan Opera as well as several notable world premieres at New York City Opera in the 1950s and 1960s, has died.

The tenor studied at New England Conservatory and the Eastman School, and completed service with the U. S. Army before beginning his career with the touring San Carlo Opera. Kelley sang in Mexico City (1948), Central City (1949) and London (1950) prior to his 1952 New York City Opera debut as the Magician Magadoff in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Consul. Kelley's NYCO career was a memorable one, including leading roles in four world premieres: Joseph Schweik in The Good Soldier Schweik (1958), which was written by composer Robert Kurka with Kelley's voice in mind; Rev. Samuel Parris in Robert Ward's The Crucible (1961); Lord Mark in Douglas Moore's The Wings of the Dove (1962); and Ely Pratt in Carlisle Floyd's The Passion of Jonathan Wade (1962). Other important NYCO assignments for Kelley included Pandarus in William Walton's Troilus and Cressida (1956); the Narrator in the U.S. premiere of Carl Orff's Der Mond (1956); Count Mancini in Ward's He Who Gets Slapped (1959); Mr. Scratch in Moore's The Devil and Daniel Webster (1959) and Méphistophélès in the U. S. premiere of Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel (1965).

Kelley arrived at the Met in 1957, as Mime in Das Rheingold, and sang thirty-three subsequent performances with the company. The tenor's Met characterizations ranged from Mime in Siegfried, Shuisky in Boris Godunov and Herod in Salome to Goro, Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro and La Bohème's Alcindoro, the role of his final Met outing, in 1961. In 1960, Kelley was Shuisky to George London's Boris Godunov in the Met's English-language revival of Mussorgsky's opera; a few seasons later, in one of his many appearances with Sarah Caldwell's Opera Company of Boston, Kelley re-learned Shuisky in Russian for that company's U. S. premiere of Mussorgsky's original Boris orchestration. In 1967, Kelley's English-language translation of Hänsel und Gretel was used for a new Met production of Humperdinck's opera directed by Nathaniel Merrill; Kelley's libretto was most recently heard at the Met in 1996.

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