Thursday, September 08, 2016

Johan Botha

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.


Cameron Kelsall said...

He cancelled all of his spring engagements as well -- Otello at the Easter Festival and Calaf in Vienna. I believe his performances as Tannhauser at the Met were his last staged opera performances. Yes, not much of an actor, but that never seemed to matter much when he was onstage singing. It's hard to imagine anyone else in recent memory who sounded as fresh at the end of Tannhauser or Meistersinger who sounded as fresh as when he sang the first note.

I did get to see him in the Gurrelieder at Carnegie Hall. So sad to think that he and Lieberson are now both gone (and both too young).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yes, indeed. I didn't realize how many performances he had canceled - so very sad.