Breaking: Aspen festival director is found dead

Breaking: Aspen festival director is found dead


norman lebrecht

July 18, 2021

News of Edward Berkeley’s death was announced from the stage at the Benedict Music Tent last night moments before the curtain went up on his production of The Magic Flute.

‘The entire cast, orchestra, and AMFS artist-faculty and staff are channeling their emotion into the performance tonight that we are dedicating to him, and it is an emotional moment,’ said CEO Alan Fletcher.

Ed Berkeley was 76. He also worked with the Baltimore Symphony and Boston Youth Symphony.

Aspen Music Festival has announced:

We were shocked and deeply saddened to have learned last night, shortly before a performance showcasing his directorial and storytelling brilliance, that the longtime leader of Aspen’s opera program, Edward Berkeley, died.
This was Ed’s 40th summer with the Festival, and his contributions to the institution and to the young singers he nurtured in the program, are immeasurable. He was beloved by so many in the AMFS audience and community, and his dry wit, dimensional productions, and coaching in signature knee socks will be deeply missed.


  • Milagro Vargas says:

    I can not imagine my life as a singer without having been so deeply influenced by Ed Berkeley. He was an amazing director and human being. I was lucky to have met him the summer of his first year at Aspen and then later, at the Eastman School of Music in 1981 and beyond.

    Ed approached opera with a deep authenticity. No one was better at helping a singer create honest characterizations. He was uncompromising in his artistry.

    We all craved Ed’s approval. We all wanted to make him happy and believe that we had given our best selves to the work. That he could elicit such an intense work effort from his students is a great accomplishment of his life’s work.

    I am grieving today along with thousands of people he has touched. I send my love to his family and anyone who was lucky enough to have come in contact with this amazingly talented and special individual. Love you Ed

  • Devastating news of Ed’s passing. I was lucky, oh, so very lucky to learn from and be directed by him over those summers with the Aspen OTC, both in his opera scenes classes each year and in roles in the operas, Magic Flute in ’91, Ligeia in ’93 and Rorem’s Three Sisters Who Are Not Sisters in ’95. A brilliant, kind, uncompromising director and teacher. What a gutting loss to each of the organizations that he gave his talents and humanity to, and the operatic community as a whole. He will be sorely missed.

  • A lady says:

    Ed was extraordinary. He was the most influential, knowledgeable, warm, and insightful vocal coach I ever had the chance to work with in my years at Juilliard. The opera world has lost one of its biggest advocates and most important educators. Rest in peace, dear Ed.