From Development server
Obituaries

Obituaries

Maestros Jeffrey Tate and Jiři Bělohlávek; mezzo Barbara Smith Conrad.

JEFFREY TATE
Salisbury, England, April 28, 1943—Bergamo , Italy, June 2, 2017  

JEFFREY TATE was an inspiring presence in the world of classical music, an artist who overcame the physical disabilities of spina bifida and kyphosis to achieve a four-decade career of abiding excellence in opera and symphonic music, conducting performances of magisterial clarity and compassion in the works of Mozart, Wagner and Richard Strauss. Originally trained as a doctor—he received a medical degree from Cambridge and completed a residency at St. Thomas’s Hospital, London—Tate attended the London Opera Center on scholarship and in 1971 became a répétiteur on the coaching staff at Covent Garden. There Tate began a professional relationship with music director Georg Solti that eventually extended to assisting him on ten complete opera recordings. Pierre Boulez chose Tate to assist him on the celebrated 1976 Ring at Bayreuth—Tate would go on to conduct more than twenty complete Rings of his own—and on the 1979 premiere of the complete Lulu at the Paris Opera.

Tate’s 1978 conducting debut, with Carmen at Göteborg, began his rapid international professional rise. He assisted James Levine on the 1979 Met premiere of Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny; the following year, Tate made his Met conducting debut, replacing James Levine on three hours’ notice for a single Lulu. In 1982, Tate led La Clemenza di Tito at Covent Garden, where he took up the post of principal conductor in 1986. By the end of the decade, Tate had made his conducting debuts at Nice, Paris, Hamburg, Cologne, Salzburg, Vienna, Geneva, Berlin and Carnegie Hall. For six seasons, he was a regular presence at the Met, where his most frequent assignments were Così Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, Die Fledermaus, Idomeneo and Der Rosenkavalier. 

Tate served as first principal conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra (1985–2000), principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic (1991–95) and music director of the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples (2005–10). He became chief conductor of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra in 2009 and at the time of his death was contracted to remain in that position through 2019.

Tate died suddenly, of a heart attack, while rehearsing the Accademia Carrara in Italy. Six weeks before his death, he was knighted for his services to music. 

Obituaries Helohlavek hdl 817 
Bělohlávek at the Last Night of the Proms, 2012
PA Images/Alamy Stock Photo
 

JIŘĺ BĚLOHLÁVEK
Prague, Czech Republic, February 24, 1946—June 1, 2017  

DURING THE COURSE of his five-decadecareer, the conductor led totemic performances of Slavic symphonic works and operas from the podiums of the world’s most important opera houses and concert halls. Born in Prague, Bělohlávek centered his early career in what was then Czechoslovakia, and throughout his career he remained an important figure in the cultural life of the Czech Republic. He won the Czech National Conducting Competition in 1970, and, in the early 1970s, he served a two-year stint as the assistant conductor of the Czech Philharmonic. In 1977, he took on the role of chief conductor of the Prague Symphony Orchestra, where he would remain for more than a decade before returning to the Czech Philharmonic in 1990 as the band’s chief conductor. That assignment proved short-lived: Bělohlávek left the Philharmonic in 1992 after the group voted to appoint German conductor Gerd Albrecht to its podium. Bělohlávek went on to found the Prague Philharmonia in 1993 and led that orchestra in a number of high-profile appearances, including a televised performance at the BBC Proms in 2004; the following year he became the group’s conductor laureate. In 1997, Bělohlávek was appointed as the principal guest conductor of the Prague National Theatre, one of the centers of Czech cultural life and the nation’s most important opera house.

Bělohlávek’s international conducting career began in 1995, when the BBC Symphony Orchestra appointed him as the group’s principal guest conductor, a title that he retained through 2000. He was named the ensemble’s chief conductor in February 2005, and his auspicious tenure began with his ascension to the podium on the first night of the 2006 Proms. The following year, his contract with the BBC Symphony Orchestra was extended through 2012, and he became the first non-native English speaker to lead the orchestra in the Last Night of the Proms. In 2012, Bělohlávek took on the title of conductor laureate with the BBCSO and the same year was given an honorary CBE for services to music. Bělohlávek’s most recent appearance with the orchestra was in April, when he conducted a performance of Dvořák’s Requiem. 

Bělohlávek’s acrimonious split from the Czech Philharmonic in 1992 did not prevent his eventual return to the group; in 2010, he was again named the symphony’s chief conductor. Reassuming its helm beginning with the 2012–13 season, Bělohlávek saw his initial four-year contract renewed in 2017 and extended through the 2021–22 season. His Decca recordings with the group include Dvořák’s Stabat Mater (2017) and both albums of his Slavonic Dances (2016). 

On concert stages, Bělohlávek went on to lead numerous international orchestras—including the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra—often in inexorable, deeply felt performances of works by Dvořák, Smetana and Martinů. Since 2013, Bělohlávek was principal guest conductor at the Rotterdam Philharmonic.  

Bělohlávek also made frequent appearances in leading opera houses, including the Met, Covent Garden, Paris Opera, Zurich Opera, Berlin’s Komische Oper, Vienna State Opera and San Francisco Opera. At Glyndebourne, where he made his debut in 2000 with Jenůfa, Bělohlávek paced soprano Nina Stemme in superlative 2003 and 2007 performances of Isolde, the role that would become the soprano’s international calling card. Bělohlávek also conducted a well-received Rusalka at Glyndebourne in 2009, with Ana María Martínez.

In 2004, Bělohlávek made his Metropolitan Opera debut leading a revival of Kát’a Kabanová with Karita Mattila in the title role. Bělohlávek’s subsequent Met performances included collaborations with Mattila on Jenůfa (2007), Eugene Onegin (2009) and The Makropulos Case (2012), as well as a 2009 Met revival of Rusalka with Renée Fleming. All of the conductor’s interpretations were suffused with an enthralling admixture of lyricism and narrative thrust. Bělohlávek was more than one of his nation’s most compelling conductors and musical advocates—he was a storyteller of the highest order.  —Adam Wasserman 

Obituaries Barbara Smith Conrad lg 817 
Conrad in Porgy and Bess at the Met, 1985
© Beth Bergman
 
BARBARA SMITH CONRAD
Center Point, TX, August 11, 1937—New York, NY, May 22, 2017

AS A NINETEEN-YEAR-OLD sophomore at the University of Texas, Barbara Smith received national attention when she was removed from the cast of a university production of Dido and Aeneas. One of the first black undergraduates admitted to the school, Smith was cast as Dido opposite a white Aeneas. In response to direct pressure from members of the Texas State Legislature, who threatened to cut the school’s appropriations if she remained in the cast, university administrators took the role of Dido away from Smith. After Houston newspapers broke the story, it was picked up by national news organizations, including AP and Time, inspiring statements of support for Smith from Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Eleanor Roosevelt and other prominent Americans. Despite offers to continue her education elsewhere, Smith remained at the school, where she received her bachelor’s degree in 1959.

Billed as Barbara Smith-Conrad, the mezzo made her New York City Opera debut in 1965, as Bess in Porgy and Bess. (When she returned to NYCO in 1976, as Carmen, she was billed as Barbara Conrad.) Conrad sang her first performance with the Met in June 1982, as Azucena in an Il Trovatore concert presented at Green Way in the Bronx. Conrad’s official Met debut, as Annina in Der Rosenkavalier, followed in October of the same year. The mezzo sang a total of fifty-six performances with the company in New York and on tour during her six seasons on the roster. In 1985, Conrad was Maria in the Met premiere of Porgy and Bess, conducted by James Levine; Maria was her most frequent Met assignment, with twenty-four performances.

BARRY BUSSE
Mechanicsburg, PA, August 18, 1946—Carrollton, OH, MAY 15, 2017  

A TENOR WHO in his prime was compared to the young Jon Vickers, Busse received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin Conservatory and his master’s degree in voice from Manhattan School of Music. Originally trained as a baritone, Busse made the switch to tenor repertoire in 1977, eventually taking on dramatic roles such as Siegmund in Die Walküre, which he sang for Seattle Opera in both its Ragnar Ulfung and François Rochaix Ring cycles; Aegisth in Elektra, the role of his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut in 1992; and the title role in Parsifal. Busse had a repertoire of more than eighty operas and twenty concert works, with engagements throughout North America and Europe, where his credits included engagements at the Netherlands Opera, Opera Toulouse, La Fenice, Opéra de Paris, the Maggio Musicale and Grand Théâtre de Genève. Busse created roles in several significant twentieth-century operas, among them Man with a Shoe Sample Kit in Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco (Minnesota Opera, 1971); King Animal/Father in Conrad Susa’s Transformations (Minnesota Opera, 1973); Louis Sullivan in Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow (Madison Opera, 1993); the title role in Randolph Peters’s Nosferatu (Canadian Opera Company, 1993); and Foreman in David Lang’s Modern Painters (Santa Fe Opera, 1995). In 1979, Busse was Alwa in Santa Fe Opera’s U.S. premiere of the three-act realization of Alban Berg’s Lulu. He made his New York City Opera debut in 1981, as Bothwell in Thea Musgrave’s Mary, Queen of Scotsspacer 



Follow OPERA NEWS on FacebookTwitter Button