The Guardian’s obituarist has been dead for 12 years

The Guardian’s obituarist has been dead for 12 years


norman lebrecht

February 12, 2020

The Guardian newspaper today published an obituary of Mirella Freni by Alan Blyth, my former neighbour up the road.

Alan died in 2007, aged 78.

He mass-produced singer obits for the Telegraph, Times, Independent and Guardian in his last active period, but this tribute must be at least two decades old, and the style has worn a bit thin.

Oh, and they used the same free picture that you saw three days ago on Slipped Disc.

Newspapers, huh?





  • V.Lind says:

    You’d prefer a more recent obit written by an intern who didn’t make the Sony shortlist?

    I thought this was okay, and clearly written by someone who appreciated this wonderful artist.

  • Dalledu Alletre says:

    “the style has worn a bit thin”

    What’s that supposed to mean? It’s an accurate, balanced, fairly detailed obit.

  • Novagerio says:

    Apparently he had it ready in advance…

  • steven holloway says:

    I fail to see why the Guardian should be the target of an odd jibe because they used a “free” picture also used on SD. It’s a common enough image, it might have been attached to the piece at the time of writing/filing, and why on earth resort to paying a whacking great sum (quite possibly some 500 quid or so) for a pic from a profit-driven photo archive such as the Getty or the Lebrecht. Well, I guess that last question rather answers itself.

  • Luca says:

    Mirella sang in two operas by Mozart under Solti in the early 60s and she recorded Nanetta with him. Blyth Spirit never missed an opportunity to ignore or knock Sir Georg.

  • Nik says:

    Meanwhile, the Times hasn’t even reported her passing. Not a peep, not even one line. Nothing.
    Is Richard Morrison missing in action?

    • critically-aware says:

      And, if he is missing in action, is that such a bad thing? Me-thinks not. He just pushes out the same old tired tripe, nothing fresh or engaging

  • M McAlpine says:

    Nothing wrong with Blyth’s tribute but the Guardian should have made it clear that it was a tribute and the date it was written at the beginning of the article. ‘The late Alan Blyth wrote this tribute in ……’ Sloppy presentation and editing.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    The Grauniad; Blythly oblivious..(obiturious…?) of the passage of time. But actually, not a bad obit, even if well stocked in advance. At least, AB knew his stuff.

  • Karl says:

    What’s a newspaper?

  • Caranome says:

    There should be updates, though, on the boilerplates in stock, otherwise things that happened recently would not be included, in this case, 10+ years worth. If this happened to P. Domingo, Levine, et al, wouldn’t that have been a totally incomplete account of their lives?

    • Bill says:

      My understanding is that there are updates made when the newly deceased has been newsworthy past the sell-by date of the obituary writer. But once a performer retires, the new material usually slows to a trickle. Do you know of anything notable since Blyth’s death left out of Ms. Freni’s piece? And who’s to say that a performer might not prefer a piece penned by a well-known contemporary, rather than someone later who had rarely, perhaps never, encountered their art in its prime?

      • Carlos Solare says:

        I do miss a mention of the academy for singers that Freni founded in Modena in or around 2010 (Accademia di Alto Perfezionamento per Cantanti Lirici), where she taught until fairly recently.

  • Willymh says:

    I always found Mr Blyth to be a fine and thoughtful writer. As to his style wearing a bit thin – perhaps that can be said of any writer who has been at that sort of thing for a long time. Just a thought.

    And they do mention at the bottom that he died in 2007.

  • I’m reminded of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” episode where she was assigned to pre-write obituaries for celebrities and somehow did not compose a few of them with the highest level of journalistic standards.

  • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

    “Transportation for life,” was the sentence he gave,
    “And then to be fined forty pound.”
    The jury all cheered, though the judge said he feared
    That the phrase was not legally sound.

    But their wild exultation was suddenly checked
    When the jailer informed them, with tears:
    Such a sentence would not have the slightest effect
    As the pig had been dead for some years.

  • MacroV says:

    This isn’t so uncommon. When Bob Hope died, the NY Times published an obituary written by Vincent Canby, legendary film critic, who had died five years previously. But Hope was 102 and hadn’t been active in a while, so there wasn’t need for much updated.

  • Paul Carlile says:

    Well, that makes a Blyth Spirit.