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‘He made me laugh between scenes’: a Queen of the Night mourns Richard Angas

Kathryn Lewek, the US soprano who sang at this summer’s Bregenz Festival with the lamented British bass, has sent us an instant response to news of his death. Richard collapsed yesterday while rehearsing Peter Grimes at Opera North. He died hours later in hospital.

Welsh National Opera in Lulu – opera by Alban Berg

 

 

Tonight I am remembering Richard Angas.

I am not a family member, or a close friend, and in all honesty, I can’t say that I knew him very well.  He was my colleague. A fellow singer.  Many of you will understand instantly that this means that for a brief time in my life, because we shared the stage, we shared a certain companionship and camaraderie together with our cast-mates, crew, and leading team that felt…well…like a family.

Richard and I worked together this summer for 6 weeks in Bregenz, Austria in the world premiere production of Andre Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice.  His was not a large role, as ‘The Duke’, but extremely memorable and impressive.  Every syllable that he uttered was like a magnetic jewel that attracted all ears.  I stood backstage (20 minutes before I should have been there) simply so I could let his booming voice shock me every time — “ANTONIO!!!” — simply arresting.

But what I loved most were the jokes and stories he entertained me with while we sat next to each other during our make up calls during Act II.  As the sweat of Act I was powdered off my face, and he had multiple pieces of facial hair glued upon his, I loved hearing him recall memories of his long career, and share advice with me, the newbie.  I treasured his kind words of encouragement and inspiration for my budding career.  He reminded me to cherish my husband and my family, for as much as we think we as artists sacrifice for our careers, our family sacrifices more.

Richard made a point of visiting everyone at their dressing rooms before each performance, giving a personal Toi Toi Toi to each of us…to me, he was an artist of tradition, exceptional talent and presence, and special kindness. My thoughts are with Roseanne, his wife, who met him at his dressing room with a big smile after every performance.  Rest in peace, my friend

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Comments

  1. Kathryn’s entirely right: he was one of the loveliest of men — which often made him quite a contrast with his stage characters. Indeed, it’s a measure of his own personality that he brought credibility to some fairly incredible characters. Kathryn mentions the Duke in The Merchant of Venice where his extraordinary stage presence convinced you that’s exactly how a Duke would behave. In May, draped in a woolly pelt, he portrayed Orango, the eponymous man-ape, in the Prologue (all that survives) of Shostakovich’s opera, in a semi-staged performance in the Royal Festival Hall (its UK premiere), and the moment where Richard as Orango plays “Chizhik pyzhik” on a toy piano was almost painfully funny — but soon after Orango gives an existential howl and the entire mood of the piece changes in an instant. Richard put his finger on exactly the right tone and in those two seconds ran a shiver up the 3000+ spines in the hall. As the cabin steward in Weinberg’s _Passazhirka_ in Bregenz in 2010 his understated approach brought a lugubrious wit to play — and it was at Bregenz only last month that I last saw him, and raised a glass with him and Roseanne at the reception closing the André Tchaikowsky symposium. Our paths first crossed when he played one of the parts in Havergal Brian’s opera _The Tigers_, recorded over a week in 1983 in the BBC Studios in Maida Vale, and about to be released on CD by Testament — and it now becomes a testament to Richard. I join Kathryn in sending my thoughts to Roseanne.

  2. Kathryn’s entirely right: he was one of the loveliest of men — which often made him quite a contrast with his stage characters. Indeed, it’s a measure of his own personality that he brought credibility to some fairly incredible characters. Kathryn mentions the Duke in _The Merchant of Venice_ where his extraordinary stage presence convinced you that’s exactly how a Duke would behave. In May, draped in a woolly pelt, he portrayed Orango, the eponymous man-ape, in the Prologue (all that survives) of Shostakovich’s opera, in a semi-staged performance in the Royal Festival Hall (its UK premiere); the moment where Richard as Orango plays “Chizhik pyzhik” on a toy piano was almost painfully funny — but soon after Orango gives an existential howl of pain and the entire mood of the piece changes in an instant. Richard put his finger on exactly the right tone and in those two seconds ran a shiver up the 3000+ spines in the hall. As the cabin steward in Weinberg’s _Passazhirka_ in Bregenz in 2010 his understated approach brought a lugubrious wit to play — and it was at Bregenz only last month that I last saw him, and raised a glass with him and Roseanne at the reception closing the André Tchaikowsky symposium. Our paths first crossed when he played one of the parts in Havergal Brian’s opera _The Tigers_, recorded over a week in 1983 in the BBC Studios in Maida Vale, and about to be released on CD by Testament — and it now becomes a testament to Richard. I join Kathryn in sending my thoughts to Roseanne.

  3. A beautiful tribute from Katie. I wish I had known him. I feel now like I did.

  4. A wonderful tribute.

    On this side of the pond, the lovely Ms. Lewek will be making her Met debut Dec. 28th, as QOTN.

  5. Having been to Bregenz for André Tchaikowsky’s opera, The Merchant of Venice, I feel a certain loss with the passing of Richard Angas. We all remember his first notes, with his dramatic bass voice. You knew it was something special. Thank you, too, to Kathryn and Martin for your comments.

  6. Daniel Knapp says:

    Thank you Katie, thanks Martin, thank you Dave!

    Richard was one of the most admirable singers to work with. I first met him as “Sagrestano” in TOSCA in my first Bregenz year and have enjoyed his performances, but also his company, his humor and his humble personality tremendously over the last 7 seasons; the last time just 3 weeks ago. My thoughts are with Roseanne, his children, family and everyone at Opera North who had to witness yesterday’s tragic event. R.I.P. Richard. You will be sadly missed.

  7. Scott Hendricks says:

    Lovely article Kathryn… Richard was a wonderful person…

  8. Margret eccles says:

    Oh, I am so sorry to hear this sad news – it was such a pleasure to look forward to seeing an opera in which Richard was taking part. He was just one of the greats. Sad sad………

  9. Having been his parish priest in London for 20 years I can testify to the fact that he was a truly good, Christian man. May he rest in peace in that place of rest and santification and may Rosanne, his wife, be comforted by the everlasting arms of the loving Lord Jesus! RIP.

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