Four maestros die in the same spot, and a fifth nearbyNews
It s mercifully rare for a conductor to die in mid-performance. In a century and a half of conducting history, we can count the tragic instances on the fingers of two hands.
All the more astonishing, then, that four of these tragedies have occurred in the orchestra pit of the National Theatre in Munich.
On June 21 1911, the Wagnerian conductor Felix Mottl collapsed with a heart attack in the same place during a performance of Tristan und Isolde. He died 10 days later.
Josef Keilberth died, also during Tristan on July 20, 1968.
The Italian conductor Giuseppe Patanè had a heart attack there during Rossini’s Barber of Seville on May 29, 1989 and died that same night.
This weekend, Hungarian conductor Stefan Soltész collapsed in the same spot while conducting Richard Strauss’s Die Schweigsame Frau.
A fifth conductor, the Swiss Marcello Viotti, suffered a blood clot in Munich while rehearsing Massenet’s Manon with the radio orchestra in February 2005. He never emerged from the coma and died a week later in hospital.
Mottl was 54, Keilberth 60, Patanè 58, Soltesz 73, Viotti 50. None had a previously known condition.
After Keilberth’s shocking death in 1968, Herbert von Karajan ordered research to be carried out into maestros dying during Tristan, with a view to the health and safety of the profession. No conclusions were ever published.
From the facts now before us it appears that Munich in summer is a singularly high-risk venue. Why would that be? Heat and poor ventilation would the the first causes for investigation. A responsible management would conduct an immediate survey.
Other maestro fatalities include the Swiss Armin Jordan, who suffered a heart attack on September, 15 2006 while conducting Prokofiev’s Love of Three Oranges in Basle and died five days later; and the Italian Giuseppe Sinopoli, who collpased in Berlin during Aida on April 20, 2001 and was pronounced dead the following day.