Richard Cassilly
American opera singer
Richard Cassilly
Richard Cassilly was an American operatic tenor who had a major international opera career between 1954 and 1990. Cassilly "was a mainstay in the heldentenor repertory in opera houses around the world for 30 years", and particularly excelled in Wagnerian roles like Tristan, Siegmund and Tannhäuser, and in dramatic parts that required both stamina and vocal weight, such as Giuseppe Verdi's "Otello" and Camille Saint-Saëns's "Samson".
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A Maestro's Four-Decade Evolution
NYTimes - about 6 years
AS if to make up for his reduced presence there, the Metropolitan Opera has favored us with two giant boxed sets, of 32 CDs and 21 DVDs, in celebration of James Levine's 40 years with the company. They are quite wonderful, confirming all sorts of happy memories -- which in my case date back to a performance in Los Angeles of ''Tosca'' in 1971,
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MUSIC REVIEW; Singing the Praises of Greed and Naked Capitalism
NYTimes - over 8 years
In recent years nothing has inspired the select young singers and instrumentalists of the Tanglewood Music Center, the prestigious training institute run by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at its summer home here, more than working with James Levine on challenging operatic repertory. So it was a major disappointment when emergency surgery forced Mr.
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MUSIC; Sin City: Morally Bankrupt, But Musical
NYTimes - about 10 years
''Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,'' first presented in Leipzig, Germany, in 1930, is the most ambitious product of the brief but dynamic collaboration between Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. It is also the hardest of their works to pull off in production. The creators called this bitterly satirical indictment of capitalism an opera. Yet
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Finding the Saint in Schoenberg, a Devil for So Many
NYTimes - over 17 years
Here are some favorite Schoenberg recordings of the classical music critics of The New York Times. Compact disks range in price from $11.99 for one CD to $32.99 for a two-CD set. (An introduction appears on page 1 of Weekend.) CHORAL WORKS. Soloists; BBC Singers; BBC Chorus; BBC Symphony; members of the London Sinfonietta; conducted by Pierre
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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; Taking a Look Into the Soul Of 'Susannah'
NYTimes - almost 18 years
It's not often that composers live long enough to see their operas enter the repertory and to hear successive generations of singers perform them. Strauss, who died in 1949 at 84, was one of the few. Consider this: He coached the soprano Marie Wittich, who created the daunting role of Salome in 1905, and conducted the great Ljuba Welitsch in it
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CLASSICAL MUSIC; A Soprano's Life Near the Top
NYTimes - over 18 years
SOME performing artists, though they earn the deep respect of colleagues and enjoy productive careers, never quite reach the top in terms of recognition, clout with managers and performance opportunities. Sometimes the reasons reflect well on an artist's integrity: a lack of flashiness; an unwillingness to compromise artistic standards; an
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Paid Notice: Deaths CASSILLY, RICHARD
NYTimes - about 19 years
CASSILLY-Richard. The students, faculty, and staff of the School for the Arts at Boston University mourn the loss of our friend and faculty colleague, Richard Cassilly. A wonderfully gifted singer and devoted teacher, he was loved and admired by his many students and fellow artists alike. We will miss him greatly and we express our sincere
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Paid Notice: Deaths CASSILLY, RICHARD
NYTimes - about 19 years
CASSILLY-Richard. The Metropolitan Opera deeply mourns the death of our beloved colleague and friend, Richard Cassilly. A versatile and generous artist, he sang more than 150 performances of 14 roles with the company, and created the roles of Jimmy Mahoney in Weill's ''Mahagonny'' and the title role in Stravinsky's ''Oedipus Rex'' in the Met
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Paid Notice: Deaths CASSILLY, RICHARD
NYTimes - about 19 years
CASSILLY-Richard. New York City Opera mourns the passing of a good friend and coleague, Richard Cassilly. He joined the City Opera in 1955, and over the years provided us with many memorable evenings in the theater. He has been a continuing supporter of our company, a caring friend and colleague to his fellow artists, and a dedicated teacher and
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Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Richard Cassilly
  • 1998
    Age 70
    Died in 1998.
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  • 1990
    Age 62
    His last performance at the Met was on November 23, 1990 as Herod with Hildegard Behrens in the title role.
    More Details Hide Details His 157th performance at that house, it was also his final appearance on the opera stage.
  • 1988
    Age 60
    With the exception of the year 1988, he appeared at the Met every year through 1990.
    More Details Hide Details Among the many roles he portrayed at the house during this time are Aegisth (1980–1984), Canio (1980–1981), Captain Vere in Billy Budd (1980–1989), Don José (1980), Drum Major (1980–1989), Herod (1981–1990), Jimmy Mahoney in Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1979–1984), the title role in Œdipus rex (in John Dexter's production, 1981), Otello (1978–1980), Peter Grimes (1983), Samson (1981, opposite Viorica Cortez), Tannhäuser (1978–1987), and Tristan in Tristan und Isolde (1981). Both his performances of Tannhäuser and Jimmy Mahoney were recorded for broadcast on PBS's Great Performances, both of which were subsequently released for sale on DVD. He performed the role of Jimmy Mahoney (The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny) for the Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala in 1983.
  • 1986
    Age 58
    In March 1986 he sang Jimmy Mahoney for his only appearance with Scottish Opera and in 1988 he returned to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing Tannhäuser.
    More Details Hide Details His recordings include The Tenor (with Chester Ludgin, 1958), Les troyens (with Eleanor Steber and Regina Resnik, 1960), Il prigioniero (with Treigle, Anne McKnight, and Stokowski, 1960), Susannah (with Phyllis Curtin and Treigle, 1962), La forza del destino (excerpts, with Eileen Farrell, 1963), The Tender Land (with Joy Clements, abridged, conducted by the composer, Aaron Copland, 1965), Salome (with Dame Gwyneth Jones, conducted by Karl Böhm, 1970), Moses und Aron (conducted by Pierre Boulez, 1974), Leonore (with Edda Moser, 1976) and Troilus and Cressida (with Dame Janet Baker, 1976). In 2010, his performance of Wozzeck from the Met, with José van Dam and Silja, was published on compact discs. Perhaps more important, his 1979 Mahagonny and 1982 Tannhäuser from the Met, as well as the Fidelio film from Hamburg, have been issued on DVD.
    In 1986, Cassilly joined the voice faculty at Boston University where he taught until his death twelve years later in Boston on January 30, 1998.
    More Details Hide Details Just a few days prior to his death he had fallen on the ice and hit his head. The doctors at the time thought it was a mild concussion but the fall in reality caused a cerebral hemorrhage which was fatal. At the time of his death he was married to Metropolitan Opera soprano Patricia Craig.
  • 1983
    Age 55
    In September 1983 he returned to San Diego Opera to sing Peter Grimes with Patricia Craig and in October returned to the San Francisco Opera to sing Otello.
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  • 1982
    Age 54
    In October 1982 he portrayed Samson opposite Fiorenza Cossotto's Dalila for the 40th Anniversary of New Orleans Opera.
    More Details Hide Details In March 1983 Cassilly sang the role of Luka Kuzmič for the American premiere of Leoš Janáček's From the House of the Dead in a concert with the New York Philharmonic. The following June he sang Tannhäuser for his first appearance at the Liceu and in July repeated that role for his South American debut at the Teatro Municipal in Santiago, Chile.
    He returned to the Palais Garnier in July 1982 to sing Cannio followed by a portrayal of the mystical shepherd in Karol Szymanowski's King Roger with Wolf Trap Opera in August.
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  • 1981
    Age 53
    In 1981 he sang Otello in Toronto again and repeated the role with Pittsburgh Opera in 1982.
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  • 1980
    Age 52
    In 1980 he sang Otello with the Frankfurt Opera, the Nationaltheater Mannheim, the Edmundton Opera Company, and the Canadian Opera Company.
    More Details Hide Details He also sang Tannhäuser in Genoa and Geneva.
  • 1979
    Age 51
    In 1979 he returned to the Grand Théâtre de Genève to sing Tannhäuser to Éva Marton's Elisabeth.
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  • 1978
    Age 50
    During his years as a mainstay at the Met, Cassilly continued to appear in operas and concerts throughout the world. In 1978 he sang Siegmund at the Palais Garnier and he returned to the Houston Grand Opera in November of that year to sing Laca Klemeň.
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    His returned with a critically acclaimed performance of the title role in Wagner's Tannhäuser on January 26, 1978 with Teresa Kubiak as Elisabeth, Bernd Weikl as Wolfram, and Grace Bumbry as Venus.
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    In 1978 Cassilly joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera after having not appeared there since his debut at the house in 1973.
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  • 1977
    Age 49
    In 1977 he sang Tannhäuser for his debut with the Royal Danish Opera.
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  • 1976
    Age 48
    In January 1976 he appeared for the first time at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos as Otello.
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  • 1973
    Age 45
    On January 20, 1973, he made his highly anticipated Metropolitan Opera debut as Radamès opposite Lucine Amara as Aida, Irene Dalis as Amneris, Cornell MacNeil as Amonasro, and Giorgio Tozzi as Ramfis.
    More Details Hide Details The following March he sang Tannhäuser at the Opéra de Bordeaux and on June 3 made his debut at the Opéra National de Paris as Aegisth and later in the month Siegmund. The following summer he sang the role of Jason in Luigi Cherubini's rarely heard Médée at the Caramoor International Music Festival, which was also transported to New York City for a performance as of part the NYCO opera season. In 1975 Cassily sang the Siegmund opposite Birgit Nilsson's Bruennhilde at the Orange Festival, a pairing which was repeated the following year at the Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona.
    Engagements with other major companies soon followed, and by 1973 Cassilly had sung leading roles with almost every major opera house in Europe, including La Scala, the Opéra National de Paris, the Vienna State Opera, and the Bavarian State Opera.
    More Details Hide Details Cassilly also forged a strong collaborative partnership with the Royal Opera in London, appearing in that house almost every year from 1968-82. In 1978 he joined the roster of principal tenors at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where he spent the majority of his time until his retirement in 1990. Born in Washington, D.C., Cassilly spent his childhood on a farm near Aberdeen, Maryland where he attended Bel Air High School where his voice potential was first recognized. He became involved in music through singing in his high school's glee club. In 1946, at the age of eighteen, he entered the Peabody Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University where he studied singing with Hans Heinz. As a student he sang in college productions of The Flying Dutchman (as the Steersman) and Madama Butterfly (as Pinkerton). During this time he also had the opportunity to study under Rosa Ponselle who had retired from her career and was residing in Baltimore.
  • 1972
    Age 44
    In 1972 Cassily returned to the San Francisco Opera to sing Radames in Aida and the mayor in the American premiere of Gottfried von Einem's The Visit of the Old Lady.
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  • 1970
    Age 42
    Cassilly made his only appearance at La Scala in January 1970 as Samson in Saint-Saëns's Samson et Dalila.
    More Details Hide Details The following April he sang Otello for his first appearance at the Bavarian State Opera and on June 13 sang Tannhäuser to Claire Watson's Elisabeth for his Vienna State Opera debut. In October he made his first appearance at the San Diego Opera as Calaf in Turandot followed by his Pittsburgh Opera debut in December as Tannhäuser.
  • 1968
    Age 40
    On February 16, 1968 Cassilly made his debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden as Laca Klemeň to Marie Collier's Jenůfa with Astrid Varnay as the Kostelnicka.
    More Details Hide Details He returned there almost every year through 1982, portraying the roles of Aeneas in Les Troyens (1977), the Drum Major in Wozzeck (1974), Florestan (1969), Herod in Salome (1979), Laca Klemeň (1968–1972), the title role in Peter Grimes (1976), Otello (1968), Siegmund in Wagner's Die Walküre (1971–1982), the title role in Tannhäuser (1972–1974), and Troilus in Troilus and Cressida (1975). Cassilly notably recorded several of these roles with the Royal Opera, including Siegmund and Troilus.
  • 1967
    Age 39
    In October 1967 he returned to Vancouver Opera to sing the role of Dick Johnson for the first time in Puccini's La fanciulla del West with Dorothy Kirsten as Minnie, Chester Ludgin as Jack Rance, and Fausto Cleva conducting.
    More Details Hide Details The following December he sang Erik to Ingrid Bjoner's Senta in The Flying Dutchman at the New Orleans Opera.
    In April 1967 he made his Seattle Opera debut singing Manrico to Eileen Farrell's Leonora and Sherrill Milnes's Count DiLuna in Verdi's Il Trovatore.
    More Details Hide Details That summer he performed at Lincoln Center in Washinginton D.C. with the Hamburg State Opera's transport productions of Mathis der Maler (as the Archbishop) and Jenůfa. This was followed by his first performance of the title role in Verdi's Otello with HSO the following September.
  • 1966
    Age 38
    In 1966 Cassily returned to the San Francisco Opera to sing Grigoriy in Boris Godunov and Aegisth in Elektra.
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    He made his debut with the company singing Cavaradossi opposite the Tosca of Suzanne Sarroca in October 1966.
    More Details Hide Details He notably appeared as Florestan in the company's 1968 film of Beethoven's Fidelio, opposite Anja Silja. He portrayed Aron in a critically acclaimed 1974 production of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron with the company which was later recorded under conductor Pierre Boulez. The city of Hamburg honored him by bestowing on him the title of "Kammersänger". During his time there he also would travel periodically to sing with the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe and the Nationaltheater Mannheim. The year 1965 not only marked Cassily's first major European appearance, but also brought a personal triumph for Cassilly in February of that year: singing the title role in Charles Gounod's Faust for his first professional opera performance in his home city at the Baltimore Civic Opera. The following October he made his debut with Montreal Opera singing Radames with conductor Zubin Mehta, Virginia Zeani is Aida and Lili Chookasian as Amneris. This was followed by a performance of Britten's War Requiem with the San Antonio Symphony.
    He was the HSO's leading dramatic tenor between 1966-78 where he sang a total of 55 roles, often singing as many as three or four different roles per week.
    More Details Hide Details He was a particular house favorite in the Wagner roles of Siegmund, Walther, Tristan, and Tannhäuser.
  • 1965
    Age 37
    In 1965, Cassilly returned to Europe having not performed there since his 1958 debut, singing the title role in Heinrich Sutermeister's Raskolnikoff at the Grand Théâtre de Genève.
    More Details Hide Details Earning rave reviews, Cassilly was soon approached with offers to join the Hamburg State Opera (HSO) and the Deutsche Oper Berlin. He decided to accept a single engagement in Berlin but signed a longterm contract with the HSO, ultimately moving his family to that city.
  • 1964
    Age 36
    In 1964 he debuted with the San Francisco Opera as Max in Der Freischütz and returned to Cincinnati Opera to sing his first Baron von Eisenstein in Die Fledermaus.
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  • 1963
    Age 35
    In the Summer of 1963 he sang his first Manrico in Verdi's Il trovatore with Lucine Amara as Leonora for his debut with Central City Opera.
    More Details Hide Details This was followed by his first Don Alvaro in Verdi's La forza del destino in November with New Orleans Opera.
  • 1962
    Age 34
    In 1962 he returned to the Houston Grand Opera to sing two new roles, Canio in I Pagliacci and Walther in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.
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  • 1960
    Age 32
    In 1960 Cassilly sang Don José for three house debut performances: the Houston Grand Opera (in January opposite Claramae Turner as Carmen), the Vancouver Opera (in April with Nan Merriman as Carmen), and the Opera Company of Boston (in May with Gloria Lane as Carmen).
    More Details Hide Details In the summer of that year he returned to Cincinnati Opera to sing his first Radames in Aida, and in the Fall he went back to the Lyric Opera of Chicago to sing both Don José (opposite Jean Madeira) and Pinkerton (opposite Leontyne Price).
  • 1959
    Age 31
    In the summer of 1959 he sang the title role in Peter Grimes and portrayed the role of Don José opposite Nell Rankin's Carmen with Cincinnati Opera.
    More Details Hide Details The following November he made his first appearance with the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Laca Klemeň in Leoš Janáček's Jenůfa opposite Sylvia Fisher in the title role.
  • 1958
    Age 30
    This was followed by his European debut in July 1958 portraying the role of Sam Polk in Carlisle Floyd's Susannah at the Brussels World's Fair in a production transported from the NYCO.
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    In February 1958 he sang Pollione in Bellini's Norma with New Orleans Opera.
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  • 1957
    Age 29
    Cassilly made his first appearance outside of the United States in 1957 with the Canadian Opera Company as Cavaradossi in Tosca.
    More Details Hide Details He reprised the role later that year at Fort Worth Opera with Phyllis Curtin in the title role and Walter Cassel as Scarpia.
  • 1955
    Age 27
    Although Cassilly was primarily working in New York during these years, he did travel frequently for performances with other companies and musical ensembles both in United States and internationally. In 1955 he made his first appearance in Philadelphia at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra as Don José in a concert performance Carmen.
    More Details Hide Details That same year he sang his first Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca opposite Licia Albanese in the title role in his debut with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company. He returned to that company several more times singing the roles of Don José (1958) and Pinkerton (1958, 1960, 1961). He also sang a few times with the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company during these years in the roles of Oedipus rex (1959), Sam Polk (1960), and the title role in Wagner's Lohengrin (1961).
    Impressed with the audition, Rosenstock offered him a contract with the company and Cassilly made his NYCO debut in the title role of Tchaikovsky's Cherevichki (performed under the title The Golden Slipper) opposite Beverly Sills as Oxana on October 13, 1955.
    More Details Hide Details Cassilly sang regularly at the NYCO in productions through 1966, often in contemporary operas or in rarely heard works. He notably sang in several American premieres with the company including Ferdinand in Frank Martin's The Tempest in 1957 and the Jailer in Luigi Dallapiccola's Il prigioniero, with Norman Treigle and Leopold Stokowski, in 1960. His other roles with the NYCO included Don José in Carmen, Edgar Linton in Carlisle Floyd's Wuthering Heights, Paco in La vida breve, Peter Quint in The Turn of the Screw, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Sam Polk in Susannah, the Soldier in Bucci's Tale for a Deaf Ear, the Tenor in Hugo Weisgall's The Tenor, and the title roles in Stravinsky's Oedipus rex among others. His last performance as a regular member of the company was in March 1966 as Sergei in Dmitri Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (performed under the title Katerina Ismailova).
    Cassilly's performance in The Saint of Bleecker Street drew the attention of Joseph Rosenstock, director of the New York City Opera (NYCO), who invited him to audition for the company in the Spring of 1955.
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  • 1954
    Age 26
    This was followed by his operatic debut on Broadway as A Young Man and understudy for Michele in Gian Carlo Menotti's The Saint of Bleecker Street in December 1954.
    More Details Hide Details The production was a particular hit with the New York public and ran through April 1955. After it closed, the NBC Opera Theatre decided to use the cast for a televised version of the show.
    Eventually his break came in 1954 when he was hired by William Steinberg as the tenor soloist in Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
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  • 1952
    Age 24
    Shortly thereafter he became a member of the John Harms Chorus singing with them at such venues as Town Hall between 1952-1954.
    More Details Hide Details He also worked as a paid singer for a couple of different churches during this time.
    After graduating with a degree in vocal performance in 1952, Cassilly moved to New York City with his first wife and their first child to pursue a performance career.
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  • 1927
    Born in 1927.
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