Johan Botha in the title role of Verdi's Otello
©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera
Shocked and saddened this morning to learn that South African tenor Johan Botha has died at the age of 51, apparently of cancer. I knew he'd canceled some appearances this summer, but that's not unusual for a singer.
I saw him in person only twice, in the title role of Otello in San Francisco and as Siegmund in Die Walküre last year at Bayreuth. He was not much of an actor but oh, that voice! A beautiful bright tenor instrument with clarion power. He was seemingly tireless and was a solid, tasteful musician. I don't expect to hear Otello's part in the love duet sung better, and the Siegmund was extremely beautifully sung. He and his Sieglinde, the wonderful Anya Kampe, got one of the great rounds of applause during the 2015 festival.
I will note that mezzo Karen Cargill tweeted that he had a wicked sense of humor and brought many a cast to their knees with laughter. Many other singer tweets this morning mourn his passing.
I'm sorry never to have seen him in concert, though I have an off-the-air recording of Gurrelieder with him, and I'm especially sorry never to have seen him as the Kaiser in Frau, a role he was born to sing. Condolences to his wife and children and all his colleagues; he'll be greatly missed.
Updated: 2:47 p.m. San Francisco Opera has issued a press release about Botha. I've added a photo from their press center.