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Kenneth Riegel, 85, a Tenor of Robust Elegance, has Died

Womelsdorf, PA, April 19, 1938—Sarasota, FL, June 28, 2023

A TENOR WHOSE ROBUST ELEGANCE served a repertory that ranged from Mozart to twentieth-century masterpieces, Riegel was educated at the West Chester State Teachers College in Pennsylvania, the Manhattan School of Music and the Metropolitan Opera Studio. Riegel made his debut at Santa Fe Opera in 1965, in the U. S. premiere of Hans Werner Henze’s Stag King. He made his New York City Opera debut in 1969, as Gonzalve in Ravel’s Heure Espagnole, conducted by Julius Rudel. He remained a member of the NYCO roster for five years, singing a variety of lyric tenor roles such as Mozart’s Pedrillo, Don Ramiro in La Cenerentola and the title role in Faust. Riegel’s most notable NYCO assignment was Lord Barrat in the company premiere of Henze’s Junge Lord in March 1973. The following October, Riegel made his Met debut, as Iopas in the company premiere of Les Troyens. Riegel sang 105 performances with the Met in New York and on tour, including the title role in the 1984 company premiere of La Clemenza di Tito, conducted by James Levine; the title role in Les Contes d’Hoffmann; and Alwa in Lulu, which he sang in the company premiere of the opera’s three–act completion and in its 1980 Live from the Met telecast.

A frequent guest at Paris Opéra, Riegel was the first American tenor to sing the title roles in Faust and Les Contes d’Hoffmann there. Riegel’s other Paris roles included Alwa in Patrice Chéreau’s 1979 world–premiere staging of Berg’s complete three-act Lulu, conducted by Pierre Boulez; Le Lepreux (the Leper) in the 1983 world premiere of Messiaen’s St. François d’Assise, conducted by Seiji Ozawa; and Titorelli in the world premiere of Philippe Manoury’s K at the Paris Opera de Bastille in 2001. He made his last opera appearances in 2003, in a new production of Messiaen’s St. Francois d’Assise at the Ruhr-Triennale Festival in Bochum, conducted by Sylvain Cambreling.

Riegel also sang at San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Glimmerglass Festival, the Aspen Festival, Santa Fe Opera, Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, La Scala, Rome Opera, Teatro Comunale in Florence, Teatro Comunale in Bologna, Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Hamburg State Opera, Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Bonn Opera, the Geneva Opera, La Monnaie and Teatro Real in Madrid.

Riegel was Don Ottavio in Joseph Losey’s 1979 film of Don Giovanni and Prince Shuisky in the 1989 film of Boris Godunov, directed by Andrzej Zulawski. One of Riegel’s signature roles was Herodes in Salome, which he sang on 1992 and 1997 video recordings from Covent Garden and on Christoph von Dohnányi’s 1994 Decca studio recording.