OPERA NEWS - Robert Orth, 72, American Baritone Who Championed New American Operas, has Died
From Development server
15 July 2019

Robert Orth, 72, American Baritone Who Championed New American Operas, has Died

January 21, 1947, Chicago, Illinois—Libertyville, Illinois, July 12, 2019 

ROBERT ORTH, an American baritone who created roles in a remarkable series of new American operas over the course of a career spanning four decades, has died. According to Orth’s family, the cause was complications from colon cancer. 

Born in Chicago, Orth spent his youth singing in church and school choirs. After graduating from Wheaton College, Orth spent nine years working as a music teacher in Chicago public schools while performing in summer stock. 

Orth made his professional debut in 1974, singing Guglielmo in Chicago Opera Theater’s first performances of Cosi, though he would not leave teaching to pursue singing professionally for another five years. 

Orth’s career took him to the stages of major American companies in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Seattle, Houston, Portland and Los Angeles, with both NYCO and Seattle Opera recognizing Orth as Artist of the Year following performances there. Orth made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2003, singing Kromow in performances of Tim Albery’s production of The Merry Widow.  

While Orth proved a compelling singing actor in both the standard repertory and musical theater works, he received his best notices for his performances of principal roles in new American operas. Orth created the title role in the 1995 world premiere of Stewart Wallace and Michael Korie’s Harvey Milk at Houston Grand Opera, and the baritone reprised the role when the opera traveled to New York City Opera and San Francisco Opera. 

Two years later, Orth portrayed Frank Lloyd Wright in the reduced-orchstration premiere of Daron Hagen’s Shining Brow, and, in 2000, he sang the role of Owen Hart in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking at San Francisco Opera. Orth sang Uncle John in the 2007 world premiere of Ricky Ian Gordon’s Grapes of Wrath, and, in 2009, sang Albert Godby in Andre Previn’s Brief Encounter. The following year, Orth sang Mr. Stubb in the world-premiere production of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s adaptation of Moby-Dick at Dallas Opera. In 2013, Orth took on the role of Howie Albert in the world premiere of Terence Blanchard's Champion at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis. 

Orth first performed the role of Richard Nixon in John Adams’ Nixon in China at OTSL in 2004, and the baritone’s interpretation of the American president proved particularly enduring: Orth subsequently sang the role in performances in Portland, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Vancouver, Toronto and Berlin and London. The latter performances, which took place in 2012, found Orth singing the role in Royal Albert Hall under the baton of John Adams. 

Orth is survived by Jane, his wife of fifty years; his sons Zak and Josh; and his granddaughters Arden and Sadie. spacer

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