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|Posted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 4:47 pm Post subject: Jerry Hadley--R.I.P. (Vox)
|From the Vox weekly e-mail;
Jerry Hadley, Operatic Tenor, Is Dead
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
Published: July 18, 2007,
The American operatic tenor Jerry Hadley, noted for his bright lyric voice, lively acting and adventurous choice of repertory, died today in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. He was 55.
His death was announced by Celia P. Novo, a longtime family friend. He had been on life support at a Poughkeepsie hospital since July 10, when he shot himself in the head with an air rifle, causing severe brain damage, at a house in Clinton Corners, N.Y., near Poughkeepsie, where he lived with a female companion, the New York state police said.
Friends and colleagues said Mr. Hadley had suffered from severe depression and had had financial difficulties, troubled personal relationships and professional setbacks.
His death ends a career that in the 1980s seemed one of the most promising in American opera. Mr. Hadley made his professional debut in 1976 in a Lake George Opera production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte.” Two years later he was heard by Beverly Sills, who was in line to take charge of the New York City Opera. She immediately offered him a contract, and he made his City Opera debut the next year.
In those early years Mr. Hadley’s voice seemed ideally suited to the lyric tenor repertory, particularly bel canto roles like Donizetti’s Edgardo and Nemorino and the operas of Mozart. He sang with rich Italianate warmth and elegant phrasing. Moving up to more vocally robust Verdi roles, he gave vibrant portrayals of the Duke in “Rigoletto” and Alfredo in “La Traviata.”
His stylistic insights were nurtured by the soprano Joan Sutherland and her husband, the conductor Richard Bonynge, who became mentors and with whom he made recordings, including a program of solo tenor arias, “The Age of Bel Canto,” with Mr. Bonynge conducting.
There was something distinctively American about the directness and brash energy that Mr. Hadley brought to his work at its best. He was Leonard Bernstein’s choice to sing the title role in the Deutsche Grammophon recording of Bernstein’s “Candide,” with the composer conducting, which won the 1991 Grammy award for best classical album. He was a featured artist on two other Grammy winners in the best opera recording category.
Like many lyric tenors, Mr. Hadley could not resist taking on weightier parts that required more vocal heft and power, like the title roles in Offenbach’s “Tales of Hoffmann” and Massenet’s “Werther.” Many opera buffs and critics faulted Mr. Hadley for singing repertory that compelled him to push his voice, a move that resulted in loss of bloom, strained sound and unsteady pitch. But despite the imperfections, the urgency of his singing was usually hard to resist.
Jerry Hadley was born in Princeton, Ill., on June 16, 1952. At a young age he wanted to be a conductor, an ambition he took to college. But urged by friends to switch to singing, he earned a master’s degree in voice at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Then he taught for two years at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
He had “great trepidations about immediately jumping into the New York music scene,” he recalled in a 1999 interview in The New York Times. “I didn’t really feel ready vocally or emotionally or spiritually,” he added, “so teaching in Connecticut was a perfect sort of adjustment period before taking on a very different life style.”
Mr. Hadley’s breakthrough came with his 1979 City Opera debut in the supporting role of Arturo in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” — although, as he later recounted, the first performance was a comedy of errors. At his entrance he caught a chair on his dangling sword and dragged it across the stage, and he somehow managed to set his frilly hat afire. In time, though, he was appearing at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden in London and with other major companies.
His unplanned Met debut as Des Grieux in Massenet’s “Manon” in 1987 came about after the originally scheduled tenor and the replacement both pulled out because of illness. Mr. Hadley made a strong impression, singing “sweetly with a healthy, hearty light tenor voice,” the critic Tim Page wrote in his review for The Times.
Mr. Hadley’s survivors include two sons, Nathan and Ryan, from his marriage to Sheryll Drake Hadley, which ended in divorce; and a sister, Joyce Hadley Jenkins.
In recent years Mr. Hadley’s career had been foundering. Last year he was arrested on a drunken driving charge while sitting in a car on Riverside Drive on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The charges were dropped early this year.
Mr. Hadley’s significant Met appearances include his Ferrando in a new Lesley Koenig production of Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” in 1996, Tom Rakewell in a new Jonathan Miller production of Stravinsky’s “Rake’s Progress” in 1997 and the title role in a premiere of John Harbison’s “Great Gatsby” in 1999. Though Mr. Harbison’s haunting opera had strong champions, its overall mixed reception was a particular disappointment to Mr. Hadley, whose earnest but unsubtle portrayal was faulted for lacking the vocal charisma and dramatic aura that the role required. Still, he was devoted to the opera. His final Met appearance was as Gatsby in a 2002 revival of the work.
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