Death of an American heldentenor – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc

Norman Lebrecht

January 18 2022

A message from the Frankfurt Opera:

American opera singer William Cochran died on January 16, 2022 at the age of 78 at his home in Königstein im Taunus. This was announced by his close family. Since the beginning of his international career, William Cochran has performed as a hildentnor in the most important opera houses in North and Central America as well as in Europe and Asia.

After winning several of the most important singing competitions in the United States at age 24 – among others as the first co-winner of a Lauritz Melchior Heldentenor Foundation scholarship – student Lotte Lehmann began his career in 1969 when he participated in the “New York Metropolitan Opera Auditions” and Sir Rudolph Bing was on contract to sing at the Metropolitan Opera as “Young Heldentenor” even before the semi-finals of this competition.

Born in 1943, the tenor came to Europe in 1969, where he became a member of the Frankfurt Opera troupe under Christoph von Donanyi and a regular member of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. Regular participations are followed in the most important opera theaters in the world (eg: Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Covent Garden, Amsterdam, Opera National de Paris, La Monaie Brussels, Zurich Opera, Vienna Opera, Berlin Opera, Hamburg Opera and many others).

His repertoire included more than 60 operas, including all the roles of Richard Wagner’s Heldentnor. Additionally – and this is his artistic preference – the roles of characters in contemporary opera. He also celebrated with great success with his leading roles in Leos Janacic’s opera “Jenufa” and in the opera by Benjamin Britten. As “Peter Grimes” in Willie Decker’s production of the Brussels Opera, he starred in Teatro Real Madrid in 1997.

For several years he appeared regularly in the opera Düsseldorf am Rhein, for example in Schrecker’s “Die Gezeichneten” (1987), but also in the operas of Jacques Offenbach, which suits his acting talent and sense of humor. The quality of acting in operatic performances was of great importance to William Cochran. This can be admired admirably in the shadow of Ruth Berghaus’ epic production of Wagner’s “Ring” (1985-1987) in Frankfurt. William Cochran told dpa in 2002: “Technically, it’s still education in Germany to become an excellent singer, but the singer’s attractiveness is the deciding factor for success. It’s all about the finishing touches.”

William Cochran became known through film, television and radio recordings as well as numerous recordings, such as the first work of “Die Walküre” (Richard Wagner/EMI) under Otto Klimberer and “Doktor Faustus” (Ferruccio Busoni/DGG) with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau Under the direction of Ferdinand Leitner (this recording won the “Grand Prix du Disque” in 1971). William Cochran has contributed television and radio recordings with leaders such as Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Richard Kopelek, Bernard Hytenk, Wolfgang Swalesch and many more…

His theatrical career ended abruptly in 2001 due to an accident he had on the eve of the premiere of Luciano Berio’s opera “Re in Ascolto”, in which he was singing. He struggled with the consequences of the accident to the end.

Following his active career, William Cochran devoted himself to the musical education of young singers and the goal of introducing children to a particular art form of opera as early as possible in schools. Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of the State of Hesse and the Ministry of Science and Arts of the State of Hesse, the project “Oper in die Schule!” It reached approximately 10,000 students in primary and secondary schools nationwide from 2004 to 2008. William Cochran’s work and project with students from the Frankfurt University of Music and Dramatic Art was awarded the INVENTIO Sponsorship Award in 2004 by Acting Federal President Johannes Rau.

The Frankfurt Opera honored him on his 70th birthday with the words, “William Cochran’s scenic blasts, clear vocal expression, and the radiant penetrating power of his high-pitched tones ignited what in the theater might be called a ‘magical moment’.”

William Cochran leaves four children from his first marriage, eight grandchildren, his partner, and his family.

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