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Richard Leech at the DEUTSCHE OPER BERLIN,
HAMBURG STAATSOPER,
and theWIENER STAATSOPER





As Nemorino, L'elisir d'amore
Deutsche Oper Berlin 1988
Photo: Willi Knecht, courtesy KKN Enterprises

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By all accounts it was a legendary performance, the audience swept to its feet in thunderous ovations that seemed to last forever. The opera was Meyerbeer's grandiose Die Huguenotten / Les Huguenots. Though one of the most popular operas of the 19th century, this musical spectacle of history's bloodiest religious war is understandably seldom staged these days. And when it is, the major roles are essayed only by top opera singers. It is an opera of the grand-volume, cast-of-thousands type, one that makes arduous demands on orchestra, chorus and most of all, principal singers. On this evening in May 1987, a young, virtually unknown American tenor soared to the occasion, in a performance marking his European debut and in a role he was singing for the first time. He sang, in the words of one critic,* "like an Archangel wielding a flaming sword" - the difficult role of the (Protestant) nobleman Raoul to veteran soprano Pilar Lorengar's memorable (Catholic) Valentine, their final love duet etched in the audience's memory as one of those inexplicably magical moments in opera that just happen.

"A WORLD STAR IS BORN!"** one headline screamed on the morning after RICHARD LEECH conquered the hearts of operatic Berlin - indeed a most auspicious beginning for this tenor's international career. He returned to Berlin in January 1988 to reprise the role and also to sing Edgardo in Lucia di Lammermoor, and then again in February 1989 for L'elisir d'amore. In August 1988, he sang Armand in Massenet's Thérèse at the HAMBURG STATE OPERA.


The VIENNA STATE OPERA welcomed Richard Leech not much later. The Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto was the vehicle for his debut here in March 1989. He returned to this famed opera house the following year for L'elisir d'amore ( 2/90) and, once again, Rigoletto (3/90).

The other great opera houses of Europe also beckoned, and he scored triumphs there as well - the European audition he once envisioned but called off, happily transformed into a star's string of successes - proving that INDEED, A HOME-GROWN YANKEE TENOR CAN CUT IT IN GRAND OPERA!

*Clause B. Maier (Berliner-Zeitung Review), 5/11/87
**Volker Gerth (Bild), 5/11/87


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