The great Wagnerian tenor Johan Botha died this morning of cancer. He was 51.
A South African, he made his local stage debut at 24 in 1989 and moved to Vienna the following year. By the mid-1990s, he was a fixture at the Met and the Vienna Opera in the major Wagner roles, as well as Verdi’s Don Carlo, Vespri Siciliani, Aida and Otello. Impressive performances were sometimes marred by adverse criticism centred on his body size.
He made his Bayreuth debut as Siegmund in 2010, conducted by Christian Thielemann, returning in a new Ring cycle in the same role under the baton of Kirill Petrenko from 2013 to 2015.
In the past year, he cancelled most appearances due to cancer. He spent the last month in South Africa, saying his farewells and raising funds in a last recital for a liver cancer charity.
He died in Vienna, surrounded by family.
Our condolences to Sonja and the children.
Rest his soul.
UPDATE: Vienna Opera flies black flag for Johan Botha.