Met hero dies, 91

Met hero dies, 91


norman lebrecht

May 13, 2020

The death has been reported of the American bass John Macurdy, one of the unsung heroes of the Metropolitan Opera.

After making a comprimario debut in Ballo in Maschera in 1962, he gave more than 1,000 performances in such roles as Ramfis in Aïda, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Count des Grieux in Manon and much else.

He sang opposite Jon Vickers in Die Walküre and was called back in his 70s to sing Hagen in Götterdämmerung, under James Levine.

Absolute stalwart.



  • Petros Linardos says:


    Wonderful Commendatore in the 1970s Böhm Don Giovanni live from Salzburg.

    • We privatize your value says:

      But Böhm’s conducting is lifeless and dull. Compare with Fricsay:

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Any performance that can compete with a Fricsay performance has to be historic. If I could travel back in time, listening to Fricsay live would be one of my top priorities.

        That said, I respectfully disagree with your assessment of Böhm’s conducting in that Don Giovanni. I find a lot to like in his interpretation or, at least, the Vienna Philharmonic’s playing.

  • Edgar Self says:

    An absolutely first-class singer whom I remember best as the ideal Sarasrro in San Francisco Opera’s and Spring Opera’s “Die Zauberfloete” with George Shirley and Geraint Evans, sometimes alternating with John West, equally fine but a foot shorter and not as imposing. Macurdy was a great improvement on Dezso Ernster, the Met’s usual Commendatore and in Paul Czinner’s film of Furtwaengler’s Salzburg production.

    I particularly remember Macurdy’s seamless legato and command of Sarastro’s lowest notes in the final descending phrase of “In diesen heilgen Halle.”

    I retain an ideal memory of John Macurdy on the stage and would like to have seen him more often. In German opera he was the equal of such stalwarts as Hans Sotin, Franz Crass, and Kurt Moll, though without the bite of Gottlob Frick or Hotter’s friend Gustave Neidlinger. A noble artist, then, whose passing I mourn.

  • We privatize your value says:

    He was a memorable Commendatore, that is true.

  • Jerome Hoberman says:

    Heard him I don’t know how many times at the Met, but by far the most memorable was his Commendatore — I was a kid, and don’t remember clearly anyone else in the cast, but the huge though dryish sound, and the character’s absolute certainty as the bringer of justice, were unforgettable because they were the perfect embodiment of the Commendatore. His memory is a blessing.

  • Joel says:

    A remarkable bass! I saw and hear him two times during the 1994 season of our opera theater here in Santiago (Chile): as Fasolt in “Das Rheingold” and as the Grande Inquisitore in “Don Carlo” with Paata Burchuladze as Filippo II, so You can imagine how great was their duet! Even in his 60s, he was still a very powerful bass! With the recently deceased Rosalind Elias, he was one of the few surviving artists that were part of the Farewell Gala at the Old Met in 1966; We still have with us Leontyne Price, Teresa Stratas, Justino Diaz, George Shirley, Mignon Dunn, Gabriella Tucci, Biserka Cvejic and Mildred Miller, and from the conductors at that unforgettable Gala, only Zubin Mehta. And regarding Macurdy and his Commendatore (one of his signature roles), next Friday 22, the MET will be streaming in its free daily operas the 1978’s “Don Giovanni” with him, Morris, Sutherland, Varady, and the also recently deceased and great artist Gabriel Bacquier singing Leporello.