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Obituaries

Obituaries

Opera News's Sonya Haddad dies at sixty-seven; baritone Pavel Lisitsian; critic E. Thomas Glasow; soprano Adèle Leigh; bass William Wildermann

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Haddad in 1999

SONYA HADDAD, Canton, Ohio, November 9, 1936 - Bronx, New York, June 15, 2004
Sonya Haddad joined the editorial staff of OPERA NEWS in 1998 and, in her quiet, elegant way, very quickly became a fixture. To those of us who had the privilege of working with her, until her recent death from cancer, it was difficult to imagine a time when she had not been there. Yet for Sonya, OPERA NEWS was only the last chapter in a remarkably varied career.

After growing up in Akron, Ohio, she graduated from the Eastman School of Music and moved to New York, where she found a job in Columbia Records's classical-music division. After a brief stint at WQXR, the radio station of The New York Times, she accepted an offer from Thomas Schippers to work at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. Her fluent Italian made her a notable asset as artistic relations director, and she remained at Spoleto for twelve seasons. While there, she also lived part-time in Rome, where she worked as an interpreter and English-language coach for Italian film actors. In 1973, while in Rome, she was engaged by the John Paul Getty family to act as courier with the individuals who had kidnapped John Paul Getty III. In the guise of an Armenian woman, Sonya donned a scarf and sunglasses and kept a series of crucial appointments arranged with the kidnappers.

Upon her return to the U.S., she worked as assistant to Rudolf Serkin, Alexander Schneider and Ravi Shankar. She also worked for the C. G. Jung Foundation, for two years as its executive director, and was involved with the short-lived CBS cable television network.

Sonya came to the attention of OPERA NEWS in the mid-1990s. I had decided to commission an article on the splendid and underrated conductor Thomas Schippers. I asked my good friend, OPERA NEWS contributor Joel Honig, who had known Schippers, to recommend a writer for such a profile. Without hesitation, Joel said, "Sonya Haddad." Sonya and I met for lunch, and instantly I knew that Joel's instincts had been correct. I hired her on the spot, and the resulting article, "Thomas Schippers: A Short Season," became the cover story of the March 18, 1995 issue. It was a superb piece of work, one that resonated deeply with the magazine's readers.

Around this time, Sonya also began working at the Metropolitan Opera. The company was about to make its leap into the world of projected titles, and Sonya was engaged as one of a group of titlists. Beginning with 1995's The Queen of Spades, she titled many operas each season. As a titlist, her standards were high: she took pains to avoid the cute, the coy, the anachronistic; her titles were as precise and elegant and clearly thought out as her own prose. She wrote titles for many other companies, including La Scala and Washington National Opera.

At OPERA NEWS, Sonya was often a voice of reason, a voice of experience, and she was always a voice of pure conviction. Matthew Arnold may have described journalism as "literature in a hurry," but Sonya brought her own steady tempo to her work, always encouraging her colleagues to give fuller and more careful consideration to details than they might ordinarily have done. By her own shining example, she taught us all a great deal. We loved her, and we will never stop missing her.

BRIAN KELLOW

PAVEL LISITSIAN, Vladikavkaz, Russia, November 6, 1911 - Moscow, July 7, 2004
The Armenian baritone was one of the leading artists of the Bolshoi Opera for more than a quarter-century, credited with more than 1,800 performances there between his 1940 debut and 1966, when he retired to teach and concertize. Lisitsian specialties included Amonasro, Germont, Eugene Onegin, Yeletsky in The Queen of Spades and Escamillo, all marked by his acute dramatic instincts, handsome, velvety timbre and spectacular, seemingly endless legato. His principal appearances outside of the Soviet Union were in Europe (Italy, Austria, Sweden) and in Japan. Lisitsian's infrequent North American engagements included a single Amonasro at the Met in 1960, and a concert tour in the same year.

E(DWARD). THOMAS GLASOW, Rochester, New York, Dec. 5, 1947 - June 15, 2004
Author and critic Glasow was one of OPERA NEWS's upstate New York correspondents for nearly thirty years (from 1973), covering opera in Chautauqua, Binghamton and Buffalo, except for 1982-85, when he reviewed for the magazine from France while holding a lectureship at the University of Paris. Translator of books on Massenet, Messiaen and Marc-Antoine Charpentier for Amadeus Press, Glasow was editor of The Opera Quarterly from 1998 until his death from cancer.

ADÈLE LEIGH, London, June 15, 1928 - Vienna, May 23, 2004
A piquant, pretty lyric soprano, Leigh was recruited into the resident company of the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, at the age of nineteen. Early successes there included Pamina, Susanna, Cherubino, Oscar, Marzelline, Massenet's Manon and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, plus roles in the Covent Garden world premieres of Bliss's The Olympians (1949), Britten's Gloriana (1953) and Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage (1955). Always adept at performing light music - she was a popular guest with British dance orchestras of her era and played on variety bills with Harry Secombe and Bruce Forsyth - Leigh joined the Vienna Volksoper as principal operetta soprano in 1963 and was much admired for her performances of Lehár, Kálmán and Johann Strauss. In 1987, she came out of retirement to sing Heidi Schiller in the West End premiere of Stephen Sondheim's Follies.

WILLIAM WILDERMANN, Stuttgart, December 2, 1919 - Stamford, New York, May 17, 2004
The bass made his NYCO debut in 1953, as Horace Giddens in the company premiere of Regina. Other NYCO roles ranged from Ochs and Don Giovanni to the Falstaffs of Verdi and Nicolai. Wildermann's 1958 Met debut, as Forza's Padre Guardiano, began an eleven-season relationship with that company, where his most frequent roles were the Commendatore and Sparafucile.
 

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