19 April 2016
Brian Asawa, 49, Countertenor Who Found Acclaim on U.S. and International Stages, Has Died
Los Angeles, CA, October 1, 1966 — Mission Hills, CA, April 18, 2016
Brian Asawa, a countertenor whose elegant theatricality and keen musicality brought him stardom at opera houses all over Europe and North America, has died at the age of 49 following a long illness.
Asawa became the first artist in his voice category to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, in 1991. He made his New York opera debut the following year, as Ascanio in Ascanio in Alba for the Mostly Mozart Festival. In 1994, Asawa made his Met debut, as the voice of Apollo in Death in Venice, and became the first countertenor to win Plácido Domingo’s Operalia competition. Asawa returned to the Met in 1999 and 2000 as a feline, supple Tolomeo in revivals of John Copley’s staging of Giulio Cesare. In his prime. Asawa was an electric performer, his fearless performing style supported by a voice of arresting beauty and expressivity.
The U.S. company that Asawa was most closely associated with was San Francisco Opera, where he was a member of the Merola program and where he made his professional opera debut, in 1991, as Number Two in the U.S. premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Das Verratene Meer. Other SFO assignments for Asawa included Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shepherd in Tosca, Orlofsky in Die Fledermaus, Baba the Turk in The Rake’s Progress and Athamas in Semele. The many important North American theaters that welcomed Asawa included Glimmerglass Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Seattle Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, Florida Grand Opera and Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. He made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut in 2013, as Mr. Lies in Peter Eötvös’s Angels in America. In Europe, Asawa appeared in leading roles at Covent Garden, Opéra de Paris, Opéra National de Lyon, Nederlandse Opera, Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Teatro Real in Madrid, Hamburg Staatsoper, Bayerische Staatsoper, Teatro San Carlo in Naples and the Monnaie in Brussels.
Asawa’s wide-ranging discography includes “Encountertenor,” a song cycle written for him by Jake Heggie and included on Heggie’s 1999 disc The Faces of Love; a recital album of Ned Rorem songs; and complete performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Handel’s Serse and Messiah, Mozart’s Mitridate and Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria. Although his opera-house appearances were less than frequent in recent years, Asawa remained active in recital and concert. In 2014, the countertenor and Peter Somogyi established Asawa and Associates, a management agency to represent opera singers.
More information can be found in the OPERA NEWS Archives and at BrianAsawa.com.
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