From Development server
6 July 2015

James S. Marcus, Longtime Metropolitan Opera Guild Board Member and Former Chairman of the Metropolitan Opera, has Died

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JAMES S. MARCUS, a longtime board member of the Metropolitan Opera Guild and former chairman of the board of the Metropolitan Opera, died on Sunday in New York City after a short illness. He was eighty-five. 

Born and raised in New York City, Marcus fell in love with opera at age nine, when he discovered the art form’s “tranquility and refuge,” as he called it, at a student performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin — a work he later said was “no way to start a kid on opera.” Nevertheless, as Marcus told The Wall Street Journal in 2010, “I became an aficionado by the time I was in my teens.”  Marcus remained devoted to opera throughout his life, often attending multiple performances in a single season of his favorites, such as Otello and Boris Godunov and Tristan und Isolde.

Marcus received a B.A. from Harvard College, where he was editor of The Harvard Crimson, in 1951. He received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1953. Marcus spent most of his professional career as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs.  He joined the firm in 1956 and was a general partner there from 1964 to 1982. A member of the Guild’s board since 1993, Marcus was chairman of the board’s audit committee at the time of his death, and was also active on the finance/investment, governance and executive committees of the M.O.G board.  He was also a past chairman of the Guild’s publications committee.  Marcus was named a member of the board of directors of the Metropolitan Opera in 1973. He served as Met chairman from 1986 to 1993 and was elected an honorary director in 1997.

Marcus also served as a trustee of the Collegiate Chorale, the Animal Medical Center, the American Composers Orchestra, Guild Hall of East Hampton, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and was an honorary trustee and chairman emeritus of Lenox Hill Hospital. 

A founding member of the East Hampton Healthcare Foundation and Pianofest, he was a former president of the Alex Hillman Family Foundation, and served as a trustee of the Calamus Foundation, Manhattan Theatre Club, Thirteen/WNET, and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Jim was a co-founder of the ARIA Awards, which supported young singers, and was a generous supporter of many other arts groups and educational institutions.  

In 2010, The Juilliard School announced a $10 million donation to the school by Marcus and his wife, Ellen, and named its vocal music program The Ellen and James S. Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts.  Marcus had been a trustee since 1995 at Juilliard, where he and Ellen Marcus were frequent underwriters of workshops and residencies by artists in the vocal arts field.

Jim’s passions included many kinds of music — jazz and classic pop, as well as opera, were on his personal hit list — and he was a knowledgeable, adventurous audience member who could talk with as much avidity about a bare-bones performance by a small “downtown” group as he did an opening-night gala at the Met. Jim had a prodigious memory and could recall in minute detail the work of the great performers he had heard in his youth, from Kirsten Flagstad to Edith Piaf.  But Jim did not live in the past, as many opera lovers have been known to do.  There was nobody more present at a performance than Jim was — nobody more eager to discuss what went wrong or right, and nobody more eager to applaud and cheer what was terrific.  His generosity went beyond funding: Jim was generous with his time, his advice and his enthusiasm.  He gave all his friends unswerving support and made all of our lives richer in ways that were and are incalculable. spacer 


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