Australian soprano Deborah Riedel, dead at 50.
Deborah Riedel as Tosca (Pic: Jeff Busby, click on it to enlarge)
(Image courtesy of Opera Australia, used with permission.)
I first encountered Riedel in 1986, when she made her company debut with the Victoria State Opera as Enrichetta in I Puritani. (She traded as a mezzo until 1988. One of her earliest pro solo roles -- maybe even her first -- was Hansel in WA.)
She was soon a darling of the VSO and the combination of Riedel and Patrick Power was a surefire way to fill the State Theatre. She was an excellent Marguerite in Gounod's Faust and memorable as Leïla in Les pêcheurs de perles. She reprised both roles with the company.
She studied music and piano at The Con in Sydney, sang in the chorus with the Australian Opera from 1983, had a few minor roles with the national company then won the 1986 Sydney Sun Aria Award.
In the next decade, she was a regular guest with the West Australian Opera (singing the roles of Meg in Falstaff, the title role in Countess Maritza and Mimi in La Bohème) as well as the State Opera of South Australia (notably the title role in Kalman's The Czardas Princess) and the Lyric Opera of Queensland as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.
It was only a matter of time before the rest of the world took note... In 1993, she made her debut with the San Diego Opera Company (Amina, the heroine in La Sonnambula). She went on to perform at The Met, in Vienna and Paris.
The last time I saw her perform was in the all-Australian production of The Ring in Adelaide in 2004, as Sieglinde. She was ravishing as ever.
Her last appearance with Opera Australia was in the title role of Turandot, in the Domain, in 2007.
It's a terribly sad and unexpected loss.
UPDATE: For information on Riedel's ambassadorship to The Cancer Council Australia, see here.