Australian countertenor dies, aged 30Opera
Hours after he posted news of his incurable cancer, the well-loved countertenor Max Riebl passed away.
The director Mitchell Butel writes:
Yesterday, the world lost a true prince.
Max Riebl was as charming and as gorgeous as any fairytale prince.
And he was a prince of a human being too. Wise and calm and smart and assured beyond his 30 years. A deep thinker and questioner. A sly wit. A truth teller. A playful collaborator. One of the world’s finest countertenors and performers. And one of its finest and most loving husbands and fathers too.
I saw him first sing in Simon Stone’s Hamlet at Belvoir and was knocked out by his seeming direct link to the heavens when he opened his mouth. I met him a few years after and witnessed his ease and quirky humour and loveliness in person.
Last year, I had the complete pleasure of directing him in four roles in The Loves of Apollo and Dafne for Pinchgut Opera. We were both out of our comfort zones. Me and Baroque opera – que? Him now bringing to life 4 very different characters, all comic and tragic in their own ways. And apart from baulking at wearing a curly blonde wig to play the Sun God, Apollo (he made the right call ultimately as you can see below), he put so much trust in me and along with his wonderful song partners, was a model of bravery and creative adventurousness and mischief and heart. Working with him and getting to know him more was one of the true joys and educations of my life. He triumphed of course and was acclaimed by all who saw and heard him.
Over the course of his illness, our friendship deepened. Despite his pain, his toughness, his bravery, his quest for truth, his desire for more art, his honesty about the world and life continually floored me.
One lunchtime during rehearsals, I saw him having lunch with his beloved wife Bethany and two beautiful children, Ivy and Billy in a boatshed café looking out at Rushcutters Bay and it was so clear to me that these 4 souls adored each other so deeply. Sensing that love in action during his illness from his and Bethany’s posts and messages has been a privilege. I can only imagine their heartbreak.