21 September 2012
American Tenor Leo Goeke, Much-Admired as Glyndebourne’s Tom Rakewell, has Died
Kirksville, MO, November 6, 1937 — Pittsfield, MA, September 18, 2012
A lyric tenor whose handsome looks, winning charm and adroit musicianship made him an admired exponent of Mozart, Stravinsky and bel canto roles, Goeke studied music and voice at Missouri Teachers College, Louisiana State University, State University of Iowa and the Metropolitan Opera Studio. In 1968, Goeke made his New York City Opera debut as Beppe in Pagliacci; later in his NYCO debut season, he sang Phil in the world premiere of Hugo Weisgall’s Nine Rivers from Jordan. Goeke arrived at the Metropolitan Opera in 1970, as Gastone in La Traviata, and remained a presence on the Met roster through the 1973–74 season, singing 211 performances with the company in New York and on tour. Goeke’s assignments included roles in new Met productions of Parsifal (Third Esquire, 1970), Fidelio (First Prisoner, 1970) and Tristan und Isolde (Sailor’s Voice, 1971), as well as Hylas in the 1973 Met premiere of Les Troyens. Other Met roles for Goeke included Don Ottavio, Jaquino in Fidelio, Arturo and Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, Alfredo in La Traviata and Rossini’s Count Almaviva. Goeke also sang Don Ottavio and Ferrando in Così Fan Tutte at New York City Opera in 1972 and ’73.
In 1973, Goeke made his European debut at Glyndebourne, as Flamand in John Cox’s production of Strauss’s Capriccio. Goeke’s attractive presence and distinctive voice — unfailingly expressive, if never conventionally beautiful — made him an audience favorite in Glyndebourne productions of Idomeneo (Idamante, 1974), Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio, 1977), Die Zauberflöte (Tamino, 1978) and — most famously — Cox’s revolutionary 1975 staging of The Rake’s Progress, designed by David Hockney after the original Hogarth engravings. Goeke’s near-ideal realization of Tom Rakewell was featured in Glyndebourne revivals of the Cox–Hockney Rake in 1977, ’78 and ’80 and is one of several Goeke performances from Glyndebourne filmed for television broadcast and now available on DVD. Another Goeke characterization preserved on DVD is his Gandhi I in Achim Freyer’s Stuttgart Opera production of Glass’s Satyagraha, filmed in 1983.
Goeke was the Painter in Colin Graham’s 1979 production of Lulu at Santa Fe Opera — the first complete performances of Berg’s opera in the U.S. — and appeared at La Scala, Covent Garden and various other companies in North America and Europe, where he based his career until 1989.
In 1994, Goeke became opera director and taught voice at DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana. He retired in 2004.
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