Aspen music festival opera director Edward Berkeley dies

Opera theater

Longtime Aspen Music Festival and school opera program director Edward Berkeley died suddenly on Saturday.

The news broke from the stage at the Benedict Musical Tent on Saturday night, moments before the start of a performance of “The Magic Flute,” conducted by Berkeley. The show continued, dedicated to the director, who was in his 40th season on the festival’s faculty.

“The entire cast, orchestra, faculty and staff of AMFS are channeling their emotion into the performance that we dedicate to him tonight, and it is an emotional moment,” said the president and Music Fest CEO Alan Fletcher.

Berkeley, 76, was found unconscious by a colleague at his home in Aspen late Saturday afternoon, according to the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Coroner’s Office, and was dead on arrival medical staff.

The cause and mode of death will be determined by an autopsy, which is expected to be performed on Monday.

The Berkeley cast and orchestra learned behind the scenes of his death about 15 minutes before performing on Saturday.

Fletcher, Music Director Robert Spano and Chairman of the Board Michael Klein shared the news of Berkeley’s passing on stage and led the audience into a moment of silence before beginning the performance in honor of Berkeley.

“Strange as it may seem at first glance, having ‘The Magic Flute’ hearing this news is a testament to the joy he has given us all and the exuberance of this music testifies to the exuberance he brought to his students and genius he brought to Aspen every year, “Spano told the crowd.” He will be sorely missed by all of us. “

Berkeley has conducted classics and championed new operas in Aspen, while mentoring generations of emerging singers each summer. An athletic director, he oversaw the rehearsals in his iconic shorts, high socks and sneakers and traveled almost exclusively by bike to Aspen.

Berkeley was also a longtime faculty member at The Juilliard School and a prominent theater director in New York City, where he was born. Founding Artistic Director of the Willow Cabin Theater Company, he directed the Tony-nominated cover of the 1993 play “Wilder, Wilder, Wilder”. Berkeley has also taught Shakespeare at Circle in the Square Theater School and Pace University. and has worked with the New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony and Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra.

For most of his tenure here, Berkeley was director of the Aspen Opera Theater Center. This season the program is in transition, renamed Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS under co-directors Renée Fleming and Patrick Summers, with Berkeley remaining on board as director.

“This was Ed’s 40th summer with the festival, and his contributions to the institution and the young singers he trained in the program are immeasurable,” said Fletcher. “We will recognize him fully in the days to come and his presence here will truly be felt forever. “

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