Willene Gunn “was a ball of energy” – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Opera music

Art Director for Ashland-based Brava! Opera died this week

Willene Gunn after a Brava! Opera Workshop at Ashland in 2015. [Brava! Opera photo]

Willene Gunn after a Brava! Opera Workshop at Ashland in 2015. [Brava! Opera photo]

Friends said goodbye this week to Willene Gunn, artistic director of Brava! Opera, who died on August 10, due to complications following open-heart surgery.

“We are devastated, she was a one-of-a-kind legendary opera singer,” said Lorrie Hall, General Manager of Brava! Opera. “She was my dear friend.”

Hall remembered Gunn for his talent as an artist and for the power of his personality.

“She was Irish. Irish eyes are always smiling. We called it spitfire, spark plug; she bounced when she laughed; she was a ball of energy,” Hall said.

Gunn was on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music for 30 years as director of the Conservatory’s opera program, where she educated thousands of students, Hall said, many of whom became famous in the world. world of opera, some sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Gunn has conducted operas and sung as a mezzo-soprano, according to a press advisory sent by Brava! Opera. Gunn performed in theater and co-wrote an opera manual. She taught voice at the University of California at Berkeley and staged operas at Berkeley and the University of Nevada.

When Gunn retired to southern Oregon, she became artistic director of Rogue Opera in 2006, where she and Hall met, Hall said, and the two founded Brava! Opera in 2010.

Gunn remained artistic director of Brava! Opera until the week before her operation. His final work judged the Brava! Opera James M. Collier Vocal Competition, featuring hundreds of singers and attending a board meeting, Hall said.

Gunn’s death was unexpected, Hall said.

“I’m in Olympia, Washington, and there was a huge thunderstorm just before I checked my email and found out, and I said, ‘We heard you, Willene. It was a nice accompaniment for you to leave this earth plane,” Hall said.

Gunn’s memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, August 18 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Medford, with interment to follow at Eagle Point National Cemetery, according to the notice.

Donations in his memory may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital or Doctors Without Borders, the notice states.

Contact Morgan Rothborne, Mail Tribune reporter, at [email protected] or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.