Pianist and coach Martin Isepp; stage director Paul-Émile Deiber; impresario Anthony Amato.
Vienna, September 30, 1930 — London, December 25, 2011
A pianist, accompanist, coach and répétiteur of rare distinction, Isepp was beloved by his colleagues for his talent, erudition and discretion. Born into a highly cultivated milieu in Vienna — his parents were artist/art restorer Sebastian Isepp and Hélène Hammer, a singer and singing teacher — Isepp immigrated to England with his family in 1938 and studied at Oxford and at the Royal College of Music before beginning his professional career. In the 1950s, Isepp worked with Benjamin Britten's English Opera Group, creating the piano and celesta parts in the 1954 world premiere of The Turn of the Screw in Venice. In 1957, Isepp became a member of the music staff of Glyndebourne Festival Opera, where he later served as the company's head of music staff (1978–93) and as a visiting guest chief coach. Other teaching positions for Isepp included head of opera training at the Juilliard School (1973–77), head of music at London's National Opera Studio (1978–95), head of the Academy of Singing at the School of the Arts at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada, and head of music at the Akademie of Royal Danish Opera.
Isepp's partners during his years on the recital stage included some of the greatest singers of the era, among them Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth Söderström, Jessye Norman, Hugues Cuénod, John Shirley-Quirk and Janet Baker, an artist whose performances and recordings with Isepp were particularly cherished. Isepp's peerless continuo playing is featured in several recordings of Mozart operas, which were his great specialty throughout his career; among these are Bernard Haitink's Glyndebourne performance of Don Giovanni (1985) and Idomeneo with James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (1996). A regular visitor at the Met as an assistant conductor, coach and master teacher, Isepp conducted two 1997 performances of Così Fan Tutte for the company, stepping in for an indisposed Levine.
Among Isepp's other conducting credits were productions for Canadian Opera Company, Washington National Opera, Glyndebourne Touring Opera and Peabody Conservatory. Isepp also gave master classes at the Central Opera and Conservatory in Beijing, the Pacific Music Festival in Japan, the Britten–Pears School in Aldeburgh, l'Atelier Lyrique de l'Opéra de Montréal, Canadian Opera Company, Chicago Opera Theater, Northwestern University School of Music, Britain's Royal Academy of Music, the Paris Conservatoire, the Marlboro Music Festival and San Francisco's Merola Program, among other institutions.
John Reardon (Albert) and Deiber in a Werther rehearsal at the Met, 1971
© Beth Bergman 2012
La Broque, France, January 1, 1925 — Klosterneuburg, Austria, December 14, 2011
An actor and director who created five productions for the Metropolitan Opera, Deiber joined the Comédie-Française, France's national theater, in 1944 and remained there until 1972, when he retired as a sociétaire honoraire. At the Comédie-Française, Deiber played dozens of characters by Molière, Racine, Corneille, Shakespeare and others — including the title role in Cyrano de Bergerac, which was to be his most celebrated characterization.
In the 1960s, Deiber became increasingly active as a stage director, first in the theater and then for opera companies. In 1970, he was named head of the production staff at the Paris Opera, where he was admired for his shrewd, considerate work with singers. Deiber made his Met debut in 1967, at the invitation of Rudolf Bing, with a new Roméo et Juliette. Deiber's subsequent Met assignments were Norma (1970), which the team of Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne made into a smash hit; Werther (1971); Pelléas et Mélisande (1972); and a double bill of Syllabaire pour Phèdre and Dido and Aeneas for the short-lived "Mini-Met" at Lincoln Center's Forum Theater (1973). Deiber also directed Benvenuto Cellini for the Paris Opera (1972); the Lyric Opera of Chicago premiere of Manon (1973), with Alfredo Kraus and Teresa Zylis-Gara; La Favorita at San Francisco Opera (1973), which marked Luciano Pavarotti's role debut as Fernando; and the Wiener Staatsoper premiere of Luisa Miller (1974), among many other productions.
The 1971 Met Werther was particularly significant for Deiber personally. It marked the first time that he worked with mezzo Christa Ludwig, who became his third wife in 1972, and who survives him.
ANTHONY "TONY" AMATO
Minori, Italy, July 21, 1920 — New York, NY, December 13, 2011
Amato was the founder, artistic director, principal conductor and presiding life force of Amato Opera, a Manhattan cultural institution for more than sixty years. In 1948, Amato and his wife, Sally, started an opera company with a twofold mission — to perform entertaining opera at a reasonable price and to give promising singers an opportunity to gain experience. Tony Amato fulfilled that mission for the rest of his life.
In 1964, after stints at several Manhattan locations, including an eight-year run at the Bleecker Street Theatre, Amato Opera found a permanent home in a tiny (107-seat) theater at 319 Bowery, where the company remained until it ceased operations in 2009. Amato productions were sometimes scrappy but always presented with great integrity and affection, buoyed by an unapologetic, no-frills production style and the vigorous, idiomatic conducting of Amato himself. Tony and Sally Amato, who died in 2000, were the subjects of an award-winning 2001 documentary by Stephen Ives, Amato: A Love Affair with Opera. Several Amato alumni now constitute the nucleus of Amore Opera, a new company that began presenting performances in December 2009.
Send feedback to OPERA NEWS.