Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006
Thomas Stewart, RIP

Stewart with wife, soprano Evelyn Lear

From the message I just received:

Dear Friends,
>It is with great sadness and personal grief that I inform you that
>Thomas Stewart died this afternoon.
>He was on the golf course. He was with Evelyn. He fell to the ground
>and he died instantly.
>As you can imagine, Evelyn is distraught but being as brave as
>possible. Her son and daughter in law are with her. I will be there
>This is a great moment of sadness for all of us. But, I feel that I
>and all of us who are part of the ESP [Emerging Singers Program], had the wonderful experience
>of knowing this truly great man and we will continue his work for
>great Wagner Singing.
>RIP, Thomas Stewart. Great Man, Great Singer, Great Artist, Great Human Being.

Stewart, a Wagnerian baritone from Texas, was the great Wotan of the late 1960s and early '70s, that otherwise-desolate period after the retirements of Hans Hotter and George London, and before the rise of Donald McIntyre (who was Stewart's equal but not his superior).

Stewart's distinctive Valhalla-on-the-Range style is, laus Deo, preserved in Karajan's complete RING cycle. (Actually, Fischer-Dieskau sings Wotan in DAS RHEINGOLD, but Stewart takes over the more mature Wotan of DIE WALKURE and SIEGFRIED, and also reappears as Gunther in GOTTERDAMMERUNG, giving that weak character an unusual dose of Rocky Mountain oysters.)

Long after his retirement, Stewart contributed to Wagnerian opera -- and especially to Wagnerian opera in the Washington area -- through his Emerging Singers Program, several of whose alumni I have heard and admired (e.g. tenor Thomas Rolfe Truhitte, bass-baritone Charles Robert Austin). In 2000, Stewart himself came out of retirement to sing the appropriately sepulchral role of Titurel in PARSIFAL at the Washington Opera. Number One Son and I heard that performance and chatted with him backstage after Act I (Titurel's only singing part).

Though Wagner was Tom's specialty, I also saw him as Verdi's Iago and Ford, and as Offenbach's Four Villains.

Tom Stewart was an example in another way as well: through the constancy of his marriage to Evelyn Lear. In the multiple-divorcing world of show biz, the Stewart and Lear team were a rock of stability and general marriedness.