Death of a US-based Russian opera conductor

Death of a US-based Russian opera conductor


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2020

The Pennsylvania voice coach Victoria Hart has posted sad news of the death of her husband, Valery Ryvkin:

Dear Friends and Colleagues, I am so very sad to tell you that my darling husband Valery Ryvkin passed away in his sleep early Wednesday morning. Most of you will not know that he was battling a rare and deadly form of cancer and sadly lost the fight. His passing leaves an enormous hole in my heart, and that of his beloved daughter Amanda Ryvkin and his father Alexander Ryvkin. There is a Russian saying, “many people love music, but music loves very few.” Music adored Valery, and the feeling was mutual. Orchestras threw roses on the stage when he conducted, and singers felt buoyed by his conducting and uplifted by his coaching. His was a unique talent not only for making music, but for imbuing those around him with his robust, deeply felt, and intellectually rigorous approach. And always that cherubic smile and delight in all things lovely and his delicious laugh at all things silly. He will be missed.

Valery Ryvkin was Associate Professor of Voice and Opera at Temple University Boyer College of Music and Artistic Director and Conductor of Temple Opera. He also worked in in Suzhou, China, LA Opera’s Young Artist Program, Queens College, Pittsburgh Opera and more.

Full obituary here.


  • Alphonse says:

    I had the immense pleasure of working with Valery several years ago while I was a student. I don’t think I ever felt more comfortable with any other conductor. This is a huge loss. Not only was he an extraordinary musician, he was, more importantly, an incredibly kind, caring, warm, and generous man. He will be deeply missed.

  • Valery was also Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Santa Barbara from 1999 until 2008. He was a terrific conductor and an absolutely wonderful human being. He was loved by all who worked with him, will be deeply missed by his Santa Barbara family.

  • William says:

    Very sad… I performed under Mr. Ryvkin last year and he was a pleasure to work with.

  • All the great ones are gone. says:

    Such a nice man and so dedicated to his craft.

  • Maestro Ryvkin conducted our annual Palm Spring Opera Guild Opera in the Park concert for many years. I was looking together to working with him again this Spring. He was a first class musician with a broad knowledge of opera. And he was a charming, engaging man and a good friend. He will be missed.

  • Joanne Schoenfeld says:

    Such a loss of a truly marvelous gentleman
    Joanne Schoenfeld

  • Ben Spierman says:

    SUCH a terrific person. So damned sad…

  • Walter Winterfeldt says:

    My dearest friend and colleague for over 30 years has left us too soon. We met at a used record shop on West 72nd street in Manhattan and from there our friendship took off. Valery loved the vocal world, we shared and traded recordings endlessly. He mentioned that he had over 40 different versions of Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier”. He collected all the great conductors, above all Herbert von Karajan, and Carlos Kleiber, both of whom he absolutely idolized. Valery was among the most talented vocal coaches and conductors of our times. He was able to share his talents in so many places. He is loved by all who had the opportunity to know and collaborate with him. He was also the nicest and most caring human being. RIP my friend. I will miss you greatly.

  • David Mckee says:

    Such a shock and loss!

    The smile and those quick fingers on the baton and piano are great memories.

    I am so fortunate to have worked with Valery on many occasions over several years.

    Our thoughts are with Vicky and Amanda on this saddest of occasions.

  • There should also be mention of his artistic and music directorships of Santa Barbara Opera and Greensboro Opera. Valery also did music preparation at the Met including “Lady Macbeth at Mtensk,” where the Met orchestra applauded him after rehearsals; “The Fiery Angel” at San Francisco Opera; and “Roméo et Julliet” at LA Opera. At San Diego he conducted a fabulous production of Boris Godunov with Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. He also conducted the world premier of Stephen Schwarz’s “Seance on a Wet Afternoon.” His accomplishments were many. He was a great student of all things music and took the example of great conductors of the past to inform and give his interpretations a depth of knowledge of style and feeling attained by few conductors.

    Those of us who were lucky enough to have him as a friend, we had our lives enriched enormously by his presence. His was an irreplaceable friendship.

  • Fredric Yiengst says:

    I only met Valery last summer, playing 1st trumpet with the Atlantic Coast Opera’s performance of La Forza- He was a very kind, engaging, and capable musician, and it was a pleasure to both work with him, and discuss music- He was very accessible, with a gentleness not always seen in this profession- I’m sorry for his passing

  • Fred Lopp says:

    I will miss Valery, I will never forget the many nights we spent in stimulating conversation over a bottle of burgundy when he was with Greensboro opera.
    Fred Lopp