Obituaries

Obituaries

Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz dies at eighty-six; conductor Stephen Simon; composer Richard Rodney Bennett; soprano Sherry Zannoth.

MARY JANE PHILLIPS-MATZ
Lebanon, OH, January 30, 1926 — New York, NY, January 19, 2013

Biographer, essayist and scholar, Phillips-Matz was best known to the general public for her 1994 biography of Giuseppe Verdi, a work that was the culmination of some thirty years of research in Italy and the U.S. Phillips-Matz was also a contributor to OPERA NEWS for more than a half-century, beginning in 1948, when her byline appeared in the magazine on a short piece about the season at the Cincinnati Summer Opera. Then in her early twenties, Phillips-Matz was already a veteran operagoer: she fell in love with opera during childhood and was to remain passionately absorbed in the study of the art form for the rest of her life.

Phillips-Matz received degrees from Smith College and Columbia before beginning her career as a writer and scholar. After several years of writing reviews and articles for OPERA NEWS, Phillips-Matz was listed on the magazine's masthead as a contributing editor, a designation she retained until the early 1960s. She enjoyed especially happy working partnerships with Mary Ellis Peltz, OPERA NEWS's founding editor and a woman whose hunger for operatic detail matched Phillips-Matz's own, and with Patrick J. Smith, who was editor of OPERA NEWS when Verdi: A Biography was nearing completion. In 1991, when Verdi was still a few years away from publication, OPERA NEWS published an article by Phillips-Matz that contained the assertion that Verdi had fathered an illegitimate child by Giuseppina Strepponi, the soprano who was to become his second wife. This was the type of previously undiscovered detail, backed up by exhaustive research, that filled Phillips-Matz's work. When Verdi: A Biography was published by Oxford University Press in 1993, it was hailed as a milestone in Verdi scholarship. The book won the ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 1994.

Matz, who was a founder of the American Institute for Verdi studies in New York, was also a regular writer of program notes for the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, and was a frequent consultant and writer for projects developed by the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Her books after Verdi included Rosa Ponselle: American Diva (1997), Leonard Warren: American Baritone (2000) and Puccini: A Biography (2002). 

STEPHEN SIMON
New York, NY, May 3, 1937 — January 20, 2013

A conductor of rare ebullience and intellectual curiosity, Simon attracted attention in the 1960s and '70s with his performances and recordings of Handel works. He was music director of New York's Handel Festival (1971–74) and the Handel Festival Orchestra in Washington, D.C. (1976­–88). Beginning in 1989, Simon was music director and conductor of the Washington Chamber Symphony, an important force in the city's cultural life until it was disbanded, due to financial difficulties, in 2002. Simon later founded the Simon Sinfonietta in Falmouth, MA, and L'Orchestre des Portes Rouges in Manhattan. Simon and his wife, Bonnie Ward Simon, who survives him, cofounded Maestro Classics, a line of classical-music CDs for children, in 2004.

RICHARD RODNEY BENNETT
Broadstairs, England, March 29, 1936 — New York, NY, December 24, 2012

A versatile and prolific musician, the composer was celebrated for his work in film (The Nanny, Murder on the Orient Express, Four Weddings and a Funeral), ballet (Jazz Calendar, Isadora) and jazz (Concerto for Stan Getz), as well as for instrumental and choral works and opera. The best-known of Bennett's five operas is The Mines of Sulphur, a thriller that had its world premiere at Sadler's Wells in 1965.Bennett also performed as a jazz pianist, accompanying such singers as Cleo Laine, Mary Cleere Haran and Claire Martin. He was knighted in 1998 for his services to music.

SHERRY ZANNOTH
Detroit, MI, February 15, 1946 — New York, NY, November 20, 2012

Educated at Oberlin Conservatory and the Eastman School, Zannoth made her NYCO debut as Musetta in 1977 and arrived at the Met in 1981, as one of the Girls in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. She was a member of the Bremen State Opera in Germany for ten years and performed as a guest in a number of European houses before returning to the U.S. in 1995. At the time of her death from melanoma, Zannoth was a much-admired concert and sacred-music soloist in the New York area and maintained a successful vocal studio. spacer

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