Death of a leading US bass, 71

Death of a leading US bass, 71


norman lebrecht

November 21, 2020

Tributes are pouring in for Arthur Woodley, a fine operatic bass who died today.

A New Yorker who grew up in the Virgin Isles, he sang in an Italian rock band to get him through his studies in Bologna and made his debut in October 1979 in Mendelssohn’s Elijah at Carnegie Hall.

He sang at the Met and many other US houses, latterly in Porgy and Bess. He appeared in 12 productions at Seattle Opera. His last major appearance was as Rocco in Atlanta’s Fidelio.

Here are some early condolences:
Angela Brown: I am heartbroken to hear of the passing of Arthur Woodley. We worked together early in my career doing Porgy’s. He always had a smile, kind words and helpful advice. You will always be remembered for your warm voice and generous spirit. Rest well, my mentor and friend. See you on the other side…

Morris Robinson: When I started studying Opera, Stephen Lord @stephenlordgardener was conducting Magic Flute at Boston Lyric Opera @bostonlyricopera. He told me that there was a Black Man singing Sarastro, and I should get to know him. I set up a coffee, we met and talked for a few hours. He was warm, giving, kept it 100, gave me pointers, gave me advice, encouraged me, and made me promise to keep in touch! Last year (2019), we sang Fidelio together at The Atlanta Symphony @atlantasymphony. It was our 1st time performing together … but I never imagined it would be our LAST!

God rest your soul gentle man! You were already a living legend … and now, your legacy of excellence will continue to live with all of us who were blessed to know and hear you and your magnificent gift!!!

My heart is BROKEN. I don’t often cry … but this time, I did!

Tomer Zvulun: Rest In Peace kind man. You were one of the best people I have ever met. We will miss you Arthur.

Renecito Barberote: Just heard of the passing of Arthur Woodley. I only worked with him one in La Cenerentola. We have a lovely man. My heart goes out to his family and to those with whom he was close. 2020 is terrible.

Theo Hoffman: Gutted to hear about the passing of Arthur Woodley, an inspiration to me for years, and one of the greats. I remember this year sitting for Porgy at the Met. Someone started singing and I sat straight up in my seat and said “WHO IS THAT— oh it’s Arthur, of course it’s Arthur.”

Mary Pinto: I am beyond destroyed at the loss of this giant of a man Arthur Woodley . I had him in my living room for 5 months getting ready for his Met debut last season , and he enriched my living room and my soul every time we met and to hear that man sing live was a priveledge . I am grateful to Karen Driscoll for connecting us . I am so sorry for Maria and his girls and am so sorry for those I love that loved and knew him for a lot longer than I did . Those who knew him were fortunate

Howard Haskin Jr: I’ve just found out that my dear friend and colleague Arthur Woodley has passed away. He was a master musician with a commanding voice and a regal bearing onstage and off. Having worked with him several times, I will miss his camaraderie, his easy smile his gentle nature and quiet power. My heart is broken. All who knew him could not help but love him because he’d love you first!

May perpetual light shine upon him and may his family know the peace that surpasses all understanding.



  • John Porter says:

    I was a classmate of Arthur Woodley’s at Mannes. He was a wonderful person and a beautiful singer. Rest in Peace dear Arthur.

  • Jonathan Peel says:

    Arthur was an immensely supportive colleague- we worked together in Seattle. This is such sad news.

  • JOHN Schmid says:

    Arthur was an amazing individual. I worked with him on many productions as CM of Indy Opera.The Indy Chorus is in mourning.
    Rest in Peace my friend. JO

  • norman lebrecht says:

    From Stephen Wadsworth:
    Arthur was a warm-hearted man who’d been there and done all that. He was a wise, quietly trail-blazing singer with a sonorous, balanced, beautiful sound and fabulous eyewear. I never worked with him, although I tried. I spent many hours with him in Seattle, where I lived for some years, and I’m grateful for them. A keen-minded modern gentleman to whom I always felt somehow indebted for his totally open, totally hip, totally excellent self. We will miss him, that’s for sure.

  • norman lebrecht says:

    From Seattle Opera:
    Seattle Opera is grieving the loss of a bright light on our stage for almost 20 years. Arthur Woodley gave our audiences beautiful singing and memorable characters in an astonishingly wide repertory, from a wicked Achilla in George Frideric Handel’s Giulio Cesare, to a memorable Varlaam in Boris Godunov, to a heart-breaking Crespel in The Tales of Hoffmann. He even did a turn as Hunding in Die Walküre.

    The American bass made his company debut as Dr. Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro in 1997, and sang for the last time here in the same role in 2016. During that rehearsal process, he said this in an interview:

    “My proudest moment as an artist was getting to perform on the island of St. Croix, my family home where I spent my early childhood. My mother, family, classmates, teachers and even one of my mother’s teachers attended.”

    Memories from Seattle Opera:

    “Arthur Woodley lit up every stage, every moment he was performing. He was—and will forever be—remembered as the ultimate artist, musician, entertainer, and individual. His positive attitude on and off stage will be missed all over the world. We were lucky to have had the chance to work with such an excellent man. ”
    —Aren Der Hacopian, Director of Artistic Administration & Planning

    “Arthur was such a warm, wonderful human being, excellent onstage, equally effective as Raimondo in Lucia as he was as Alidoro in Cenerentola. And although I’ve not set eyes on him in five years, we’ve kept in touch, writing at least twice a year to each other (on his birthday and at Christmas). To think that I won’t be seeing him again…I have no adequate words. He opened what turned out to be his final email to me, ‘David, you are a prince of a man’… if that’s true, he was a king.”
    —David McDade, Head of Coach Accompanists

  • Steven COLE says:

    Arthur was one of the greatest humans I have ever met. As a colleague, he was extraordinary. As a singer, he was stellar. He was THE most loving father to his “girls” and a brilliant husband to the lovely Maria. It was an honor to be in his presence.