Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch dies at eighty-nine; authors Richard Traubner and David Hamilton; mezzo Zheng Cao; tenor and impresario David Lloyd.
Munich, Germany, August 26, 1923 — Grassau, Germany, February 22, 2013
One of the twentieth century's supreme interpreters of the music of Richard Strauss, Sawallisch studied as a pianist at Munich's Wittelsbacher-Gymnasium and Hochschule für Musik. His career was interrupted by service in the German Army during World War II, during which he was captured and held in both British and American POW camps. After the war, Sawallisch started his professional career as a répétiteur in Augsburg, Bavaria, where he also began conducting. He was later general music director in Aachen (1953–58), Wiesbaden (1958–60) and Cologne (1960–63).
Sawallisch was recognized as one of Europe's leading young maestros in 1953, when he was invited to appear with the Berlin Philharmonic; in 1957, he became the youngest conductor ever to lead the orchestra at Bayreuth when he made his debut there, leading Tristan und Isolde. Sawallisch's successes in Berlin and Bayreuth led to invitations to appear at the Vienna State Opera and at the Metropolitan Opera, but he refused both offers, claiming that he lacked sufficient experience — and alienating the power-brokers who made the invitations, Herbert von Karajan and Rudolf Bing. In the 1960s, Sawallisch headed the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (1960–70), the Hamburg Philharmonic (1961–73) and Geneva's Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (1972–80).
In 1971, Sawallisch was named general music director of the Bavarian State Opera, a position he held, with various changes in title and responsibility, until 1992. While in Munich, Sawallisch programmed complete cycles of all the operas of Wagner (1982–83) and Richard Strauss (1988–89) and received consistent praise for the excellence of his work, especially in the German repertoire. He was a favorite conductor of many of Europe's greatest stars; Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who recorded Capriccio with Sawallisch in 1957, called singing with him "a wonderful sensation. It's as if you're in private." Sawallisch was also a brilliant collaborative pianist whose partners in recital included Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Hermann Prey, Thomas Hampson and Margaret Price. During his years in Munich, Sawallisch's reputation in North America was bolstered by his recordings; he made literally hundreds, with his set of Schumann symphonies with the Dresden Staatskapelle and his 1962 Bayreuth Lohengrin considered to be among his classic performances. The last decade of Sawallisch's tenure in Munich was marred by conflict with intendant and stage director August Everding, who had been named chief of all Munich theaters in 1980, and who regarded Sawallisch as a force for musical and theatrical conservatism.
Sawallisch left Munich to take up the position of music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which he led from 1993 to 2003. By all accounts — and to judge from the glorious performances that Sawallisch gave with the orchestra in Philadelphia, New York and on tour — it was one of the happiest associations of Sawallisch's career. Then in his seventies, Sawallisch seemed to enjoy a new freedom with the Philadelphians, delivering music-making that was luminous, yet scrupulously well-considered. He also won a new reputation for innovation during his years in Philadelphia. In 1997, he led the Philadelphians in the first live internet concert "cybercast" by a major U.S. orchestra. In 1999–2000, his programming for the orchestra's centennial season was made up exclusively of music written since the ensemble's creation, in 1900.
When he retired, Sawallisch was named the Philadelphia Orchestra's conductor laureate. Two days after his death, as a special tribute to Sawallisch, the orchestra performed Wagner's Siegfried Idyll to open its Sunday-afternoon concert in Philadelphia.
New York, NY, November 24, 1946 —
February 25, 2013
Critic, journalist, historian, lecturer, translator, stage director and designer, Traubner was the author of Operetta: A Theatrical History (1983), a comprehensive, affectionate and indispensable book that was recognized with an ASCAP– Deems Taylor Award. Educated at Boston University and at New York University, where he received his Ph.D., Traubner was universally regarded as the foremost expert on operetta in the U.S. He was a frequent contributor to OPERA NEWS, American Record Guide, The New York Times and The Economist, among many other publications, and he wrote notes for numerous operetta and musical-theater recordings. Traubner was designer in residence at Ohio Light Opera for two seasons (2000–01) and designed productions for the company in several subsequent years. He died after a long illness.
Shanghai, China, July 9, 1966 —
San Francisco, CA, February 21, 2013
The mezzo made her mark at San Francisco Opera in the 1990s as an artist of charm, ingenuity and brilliant musicality, establishing herself as a Bay Area audience favorite in opera, concert and recital. Whether the music was by Mozart, Puccini or Jake Heggie, Cao invested her performances with passion, integrity and style, singing with infectious joy and freedom. Throughout her career, Cao was praised for her commitment to the characters she played; in a 2001 interview with OPERA NEWS, she explained, "If I don't feel connected to a character, then I am empty onstage. And that's not good news for the audience."
Cao received her bachelor's degree from Shanghai Conservatory before immigrating in 1988 to the U.S., where she studied on scholarship at American University. After a year, she transferred to the Curtis Institute, where she earned her master's degree. Cao was a finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions (1992) and participated in the Merola Opera Program (1994) before making her professional opera debut as an Adler Fellowat San Francisco Opera in 1995.
At San Francisco Opera, the company that was to remain her artistic home, Cao's roles included Siébel in Faust (her debut in 1995), the Kitchen Boy in Rusalka (1995), Cherubino (1998), Idamante (1999), Baba the Turk (2000), Anna Hope in The Mother of Us All (2003) and Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, her most frequent assignment, which she sang at SFO in 1997, 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2007. The pinnacle of Cao's SFO career came in September 2008, when she created the leading role of Ruth Young Kamen in the world premiere of The Bonesetter's Daughter, by Stewart Wallace and Amy Tan. It was to be Cao's last role for the company: before the year was out, Cao was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer, the disease that she battled for the rest of her life, although she resumed performing on a limited basis after her diagnosis. In spring 2010, Cao sang Cherubino for Pittsburgh Opera and Suzuki for Vancouver Opera; in 2011, she sang the world premiere of Nathaniel Stookey's song cycle Into the Bright Lights with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and appeared at a gala honoring her friend and mentor Frederica von Stade.
Away from San Francisco, Cao appeared at Houston Grand Opera, where she created Magali in the world premiere of Daniel Catán's Salsipuedes in 2008, as well as San Diego Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera, Michigan Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera, the New York City Opera tour, Grand Théâtre de Genève, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Saito Kinen Festival, among other companies. A close colleague of composer Jake Heggie, Cao appears on several recordings of his music, including The Faces of Love, Passing By and Flesh & Stone. Heggie dedicated his three-song cycle Before the Storm to Cao in 1998. In February 2012, the Merola Opera Program established the Zheng Cao Opera Fund, which annually sponsors one incoming Merola participant, either a mezzo-soprano or an Asian/Pacific artist.
New York, NY, January 18, 1935 —
February 19, 2013
A graduate of Princeton, Hamilton worked as music and record librarian at Princeton University (1960–65) and music editor at W. W. Norton (1967–74). He was the New York correspondent for the Financial Times (1969–74) and a contributing editor to High Fidelity (1969–84). A specialist in nineteenth- and twentieth-century music, Hamilton was also a distinguished critic of recordings; he contributed authoritative, well-considered essays to Alan Blyth's Opera on Record series, as well as to The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Recorded Opera and The Metropolitan Opera Guide to Opera on Video.
A consultant to the Metropolitan Opera and the Metropolitan Opera Guild for more than thirty years, Hamilton was coproducer of the Metropolitan Opera Historic BroadcastRecordings series (1981– 2008), coedited the Metropolitan Opera Encyclopedia (1987), wrote program notes and provided regular input to the popular intermission quiz on the Met's Saturday-afternoon radio broadcasts. He also wrote criticism and features for The Nation, The New Yorker and OPERA NEWS. He died after a long illness.
Minneapolis, MN, February 29, 1920 — New York, NY, February 8, 2013
Admired as a singer, educator and company manager, the tenor was educated at Minneapolis College of Music and the Curtis Institute and saw service as a U.S. Navy aviator during World War II. At the beginning of his singing career, Lloyd attracted attention at the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he was chosen by Serge Koussevitzky as a soloist in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and where he sang the title role in the 1949 U.S. premiere of Albert Herring, directed by Boris Goldovsky.
In 1950, Lloyd made his debut at New York City Opera as David in the company's first performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In his thirteen seasons with NYCO, Lloyd sang lyric tenor roles in a number of other company premieres, including Wolf-Ferrari's Four Ruffians (Filipeto, 1951), Wozzeck (Andrès, 1952), L'Heure Espagnole (Gonzalve, 1952), The Abduction from the Seraglio (Pedrillo, 1957), The Rape of Lucretia (Male Chorus, 1958), Capriccio (Flamand, 1965) and Monteverdi's Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria (Eumete, 1976). He made his Glyndebourne debut in 1957, as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos. Throughout the 1950s and '60s, Lloyd was a highly active concert and oratorio artist who sang and recorded with such conductors as Fritz Reiner, Bruno Walter, Dimitri Mitropoulos and Leonard Bernstein.
Lloyd made several appearances in NBC Opera Theater's telecasts in the 1950s, notably Dialogues of the Carmelites (1957), in which he sang the Chaplain, and Pierre in the American premiere of Prokofiev's War and Peace on January 13, 1957, at that time the longest opera telecast in television history, at two-and-one-half hours. On Omnibus in 1955, Lloyd was the tenor soloist in Messiah, conducted by Bernstein, who also paced Lloyd in a popular (and still available) 1956 recording of the oratorio with the New York Philharmonic. In 1969, Lloyd was Skuratov in WNET Opera Theater's U.S. premiere of From the House of the Dead.
Lloyd was artistic director (1962–65) and then general director (1965–80) of the Lake George Opera Festival, now Opera Saratoga. At Lake George, Lloyd promoted the performance of opera in English and twentieth-century works, founded a vigorous apprentice-artist program and formed the Contemporary American Opera Studio (CAOS). He also held faculty and administrative positions with the State University of Iowa and West Virginia University in vocal instruction; with Hunter College as director of the Hunter Opera Workshop; with the University of Illinois as director of opera at the Krannert Center; and at the Juilliard School of Music as director of the American Opera Center (1986–88). Following his retirement from Juilliard, Lloyd was director of the William Matheus Sullivan Foundation.
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