I did not want to be the first to mention it, but it now appears to be public knowledge on music sites that Anthony Rolfe Johnson was suffering from Alzheimers in the last years of his career, and died of it this week.
The symptoms were first noticed in 1998, on a Spanish tour with Sir Neville Marriner. There were further lapses in Munich at the Staatsoper when he played Emaeus in Monteverdi’s Ulisse in 2001. ‘His confidence began to suffer enormously,’ writes a trusted colleague, ‘and over the following couple of years he slowly withdrew from singing altogether and had virtually retired by 2004.’
We should salute Anthony’s courage in carrying for so long with that disability, and the even greater heroism of the colleagues who supported him. He was a generous and popular man, and his fellow-artists did their best to keep him going.
Nevertheless, the loss is tragic. To lose a great singer with the voice intact in his early 60s is cruel and horrible. In the memory of Anthony Rolfe Johnson, Let’s do our best to help the scientists who are working on better diagnostic tools and an early cure for Alzheimer’s. Let’s do it now.