Sudden death of a Grammy-winning US tenor, 73

Sudden death of a Grammy-winning US tenor, 73


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2022

The conductor James Conlon has reported the death of his lifelong friend John Aler, a tenor who sang major roles in Vienna, Munich, Salzburg and other European venues.

He was a four-time Grammy winner who never got booked at the Met.


UPDATE: A friend of John Aler’s assures us that he was once offered a role by the Met but he turned it down, saying the size of the house was ill-suited to his voice. He preferred smaller, European houses,


  • Tom says:

    Best swan I ever heard in Carmina Burana. RIP

  • A.L. says:

    Rest in peace. Saddened to read news of his passing.

  • Helen Kamioner says:

    So very sad to hear this. He was a sweetie.

  • Michael Cattermole says:

    Very sad news. Although I have never experienced John Aler’s voice ‘live’, his beautiful and expressive singing has graced many recordings over the years. Thank you Sir, and may you Rest In Peace.


    It’s really heartbreaking. John was such an elegant and magnificent artist.
    He was also the most supportive of colleagues. And his sense of humour was deeply funny, sometimes twisted and always contagious.

    John shall always be missed as long as anyone of our generation is still drawing breath.

    R. I. P. you great guy

    • Kathryn Hearden says:

      Hello, dear Craig—we’ve met only online in Italy, but we share a love for John Aler! John was a dear friend and the best colleague (I taught with him at Mason U). He is sorely missed—and will be for all my days. Such a mensch!

  • Alicia Edelberg says:

    John had a remarkably beautiful voice. Very special.

  • pjl says:

    Fine tenor: at a Wigmore concert he sang the wonderful MADRIGAL by D’Indy. I know of only one recording which is by F-Dieskau. Aler’s French was more convincing and the song suits a tenor better. Anyone know another recordning?

  • Matthew B. Tepper says:

    I’m so sorry to learn of his passing. I saw him sing the Sanctus in the Berlioz Requiem in San Francisco back in the 1970s, when the conductor was John Nelson (now working his way through the major Berlioz works). Then, I saw him sing the same work in Pasadena under Jorge Mester about twenty years ago. I spoke with him briefly after a “Damnation of Faust” at the Hollywood Bowl a few years later, and told him this, and he remarked, “Then you saw my first and last performances of it. I’ve decided that it doesn’t fit my voice any more.” But no matter what repertoire he sang, he produced a strong but sweet tone that always engaged the ear. RIP.

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    A brilliant musician, a tremendous colleague, and a fine gentleman. It was my honor to work with him many times. His Gerontius was magesterial. We shall all miss his charm, humor and voice.

  • Hmus says:

    I first heard John Aler at the regional auditions the Met held in Philadelphia’s Academy of Music back in the mid 70’s and found him to be an excellent lyric tenor. Though he was quite suited to the Academy’s 2,500 seat emulation of La Scala, he was also certainly correct in assessing the Met as too large a house, and by eschewing it managed to keep his voice fresh and unstrained. Sad to hear of his passing!

  • Tom Sudholt, Program Director, Classic 107.3 FM, St. Louis, Missouri says:

    John Aler was the complete package. His was a beautiful voice used with a rock solid technique and consummate artistry. I met him about 30 years ago, as I was interviewing him at the radio station where I worked, for his upcoming St. Louis Symphony appearance. I turned on the Revox reel to reel recorder (these were still the analogue days) and had a great conversation of about 13 minutes duration. At it’s conclusion, as I turned the machine off, I noticed that the “record” switches had not been switched on, which meant I had a tape with absolutely nothing on it. John was still there to see my error. Mortified, I sheepishly asked him for a – shorter – redo. John Aler could not have been nicer nor more gracious and good humored about the whole thing. He set a then young, fledgling, announcer at ease to the point where we were laughing about it when it was over. We never met again, but I continued to enjoy his mellifluous artistry now knowing that his grace and warmth were qualities that extended well beyond whatever music he happened to be singing.

  • Andrew Powell says:

    Adam, Le postillon de Longjumeau,
    Fulton/Anderson-J/Aler/Le Roux/Lafont,
    1985, live in Monte-Carlo, EMI

    Adam, Le toréador,
    1996, Decca

    Auber, La muette de Portici,
    1986, EMI

    Bellini, La sonnambula,
    López Cobos/Aliberti/Giering/Aler/d’Artegna,
    1990, live in Berlin, Eurodisc

    Bizet, Les pêcheurs de perles,
    1989, studio: Halle aux Grains, Toulouse, EMI

    Cherubini, Lodoïska,
    1994, live in Amsterdam, House of Opera

    Dvořák, Svatební košile,
    2001, Delos

    Gazzaniga, Don Giovanni Tenorio,
    1989, Orfeo

    Gluck, Iphigénie en Aulide,
    Gardiner/Dawson/von Otter/Aler/van Dam,
    1987, Erato

    Gluck, Iphigénie en Tauride,
    1985, Philips

    Händel, Semele,
    1990, studio: Abbey Road, DG

    Händel, Sosarme, re di Media,
    1993, Newport

    Haydn, La fedeltà premiata,
    1999, Arabesque

    Haydn, L’isola disabitata,
    1997, Arabesque

    Hérold, Le pré aux clercs,
    1987, live in Glasgow, House of Opera, CD 6749

    Honegger, Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher,
    1989, live in Paris, DG

    Honegger, Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher,
    1993, DVD, Matsumoto, Fun House

    Honegger, Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher,
    1994, live in New York, NYP

    Lehár, Die lustige Witwe,
    1993, live in London, EMI

    Messiaen, Saint François d’Assise,
    Salonen/Upshaw/Hamilton/Aler/van Dam,
    1992, live in Salzburg, ORF

    Messiaen, Saint François d’Assise,
    Nagano/Upshaw/Merritt/Aler/van Dam,
    1998, live in Salzburg, DG

    Mozart, Così fan tutte,
    1986, EMI

    Mozart, Don Giovanni,
    1988, live in Salzburg, Fachmann

    Mozart, La finta giardiniera,
    Bychkov/Alexander/von Otter/Aler/Rolfe Johnson/Cachemaille,
    1984, live at Aix-en-Provence, Celestial Audio

    Mozart, Der Schauspieldirektor,
    2000, Telarc

    Offenbach, La belle Hélène,
    1984, EMI

    Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie,
    Gardiner/Yakar/Smith-J/Norman/Aler/van Dam,
    1983, DVD, Aix-en-Provence, Encore

    Rameau, Les Boréades,
    1982, Erato

    Rossini, Le comte Ory,
    1988, Philips

    Stravinsky, Renard,
    1990, Sony

    Stravinsky, Renard,
    1994, Teldec

    Stravinsky, Renard,
    2005, Naxos

    requiescat in pace

    • A.L. says:

      Nice work in listing his impressive discography. For those of you interested in seeing him on film, here he is in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op 80.

      Evgeny Kissin – Piano
      Cheryl Studer – Soprano
      Kristina Clemenz – Soprano
      Camille Capasso – Mezzo-soprano
      John Aler – Tenor
      Hiroshi Oshima – Tenor
      Friedrich Molsberger – Bass
      Berliner Philharmoniker
      Claudio Abbado
      RIAS Chorus
      Marcus Creed – Chorus Master
      Berlin, Schauspielhaus, 1991

    • Joel Kemelhor says:

      John Aler recorded as long ago as the mid-1970’s, when he sang on a New World LP of Civil War Songs, issued in connection with the U.S. Bicentennial.
      “All Quiet Along the Potomac Tonight” was one of those songs.

    • Arthur Shippee says:

      Liszt, Songs
      John Aler with Daniel Blumenthal, piano
      Newport Classic – NC 60028. 1986

    • Rudolph Palmer says:

      Nice list. Where is his Handel Joshua recording on Newport with Palmer/Baird/Fortunato/Ostendorf?

  • Elizabeth Buccheri says:

    I knew him well because of his performances in the Chicago area. As Craig said earlier, his unique sense of humor was special. Beautiful singer and special person! RIP John. EB

  • Bedrich Sourcream says:

    I saw him perform several times, more than I would have liked. He was self-taught, he told me, and it showed. He had to force to project his voice over an orchestra. It was not very large in size, and did not have strong focus. He accomplished quite a lot, and performed constantly. I imagine he worked cheaper than more-famous singers, so he got the jobs. He sang all the time with orchestras. His voice would not have carried at the Met. He was a pleasant performer, and audiences enjoyed him. But I certainly wish I’d been able to hear more great singers more often. When second-tier guest artists are chosen, it cheats not only the audiences, but young musicians of the chance to learn what great artists have to give, and how they perform. But they have all too little access to them, speaking from the USA.

  • Steven Caldicott Wilson says:

    In 1994, I switched from a piano major to voice major, as a tenor, and in one of my music history classes my professor played John’s Berlioz Requiem with Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony (on vinyl). I was riveted by John’s singing and knew at that moment that the switch from piano to voice was the right one. I can still picture the classroom and that moment like it was yesterday. I was able to find a mint copy of that recording on vinyl and will pour one out for dear John. RIP and what a loss of spirit and talent.

  • Sebastian Stauss says:

    Just finished listening to the amazing recording of Semele with John Aler as Jupiter to find the sad news. R. I. P.

  • Arthur Shippee says:

    John sang several times for Richard Vogt and the Greenwich Choral Society, and he often stayed at my mother’s. I was able to join with the chorus and sing behind him one of those times.

    After my mother’s death, I played her copy of Aler singing Liszt songs, a wonderful recording, which prompted an exchange of emails back six years ago. In them, he said:

    “The Lizst songs are a favorite recording of mine. I love them dearly, and I am happy you enjoy them.”

    This recording does not seem to be in the discography above:

    Liszt Songs
    John Aler with Daniel Blumenthal, piano
    Newport Classic – NC 60028

    A fine man and a fine singer.