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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Obituary: Johan Botha (1965-2016)

The South African tenor was beloved in Verdi and Wagner.
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Johan Botha as Otello. Photo by Ken Howard © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
The year of 2016, that has seen the deaths of so many musically talented individuals, has now claimed the life of tenor Johan Botha. The South African singer, who was mounting a comeback following a battle with cancer and a seven-month hiatus from the stage, died yesterday. He was 51.



In a statement, his spokesperson confirmed that the singer had been battling a "severe illness."

Born in Rustenberg, South Africa, Mr. Botha made his reputation in German repertory on the stage of Europe's major opera houses. He sung in the lighter roles of the Wagner repertory before moving to parts like Lohengrin and Tannhäuser. He also added Verdi's Otello to his many roles, considered the most challenging part in the Italian repertory.

Johan Botha made his Met debut in 1997 as Canio in Pagliacci and quickly became a regular presence on the company's wide stage. He gave a total of 81 performances at the Met, shining in operas like Turandot, Aida Don Carlo and a 2007 revival of Die Meistersinger.

Mr. Botha possessed an instrument of extraordinary power, with a clean tone that could fly high above even the densest orchestra. His trademark roles included the heaviest parts in Wagner and Puccini, with his most recent appearance at the Met in Tannhäuser drawing rave reviews from critics including thi publication. Additionally, his supple voice anchored many productions of Die Meistersinger and Lohengrin in opera houses across American and Europe.

In 2003, Mr. Botha was recognized as a Kammersänger by the Austrian government, a singular honor. The Vienna State Opera will raise a black flag over the opera house to commemorate his passing.

Here is a video of Mr. Botha filmed at the Bavarian State Opera, singing "In fernem land" from Wagner's Lohengrin, one of the singer's signature parts.


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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.