Share with your friends on:


Share with your friends on:

Julian Patrick (George) and Carol Bayard (Curley's wife) in Floyd's <i>Of Mice and Men</i>, 1970 © Des Gates

Seattle Opera celebrates the life and the supreme artistry and mourns the passing of American baritone Julian Patrick, who died peacefully Friday, May 8, 2009.

A versatile singer, Mr. Patrick had a prolific fifty-year career singing concerts, musicals, cabaret, and opera. Well-known as an acting, dramatic singer, his career took him from Broadway to the great opera houses throughout the country and world. Mr. Patrick was an important singer of American contemporary work as well as a respected Wagnerian opera singer. He garnered national press for his performances as George in Of Mice and Men and Alberich in Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Born in Meridian, Mississippi, in 1927, Mr. Patrick came to music early in his childhood. After high school, he joined the Navy and served as a singer with Special Services.

Mr. Patrick earned his BA in Music from the Cincinnati Conservatory. His first professional singing engagements were with Cincinnati Symphony and the Brevard Festival in 1949.

At 23, he made his operatic debut in Mobile, Alabama, as Giorgio Germont in La traviata. Mr. Patrick was drafted into the Army in 1951 and was stationed in New York where he sang with the first Army Band.

When he completed his service, he sang in night clubs and began auditioning for Broadway, where he made his debut in 1954 in Jerome Moross’s The Golden Apple. Mr. Patrick was in the original companies of Once Upon a Mattress, Ziegfeld Follies, Bells are Ringing, and Fiorello. He revisited the musical stage often in his career for roles in works like 1776, Sweeney Todd, and The Most Happy Fella.

In the mid-1960s, Mr. Patrick returned to the operatic stage as a member of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, where his roles included Marcello in La bohème, Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and Count Almaviva in Le nozze de Figaro.

He made his New York City Opera debut in Douglas Moore’s Carrie Nation in 1968. During his tenure at NYCO and throughout his career, Mr. Patrick sang in many world premieres and revivals of contemporary American operas.

His world premieres include The Tempest by Lee Hoiby, Nine Rivers From Jordan by Hugo Weisgall, and Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. He worked with Dominick Argento on two world-premieres, singing the lead in Casanova’s Homecoming and the role of Movie Mogul specifically written for him in The Dream of Valentino. Mr. Patrick’s most prominent work in contemporary American opera was with Carlisle Floyd in Of Mice and Men. Mr. Patrick sang the role of George in the world premiere of Of Mice and Men in 1970 at Seattle Opera. He reprised his portrayal of George throughout the United States and Europe. Later in his career, he returned to the opera in the role of Candy.

In an interview by Robert Wilder Blue, Mr. Patrick talked about American operas. “[It’s] wonderful. [Carlisle] Floyd has his own voice. Dominick Argento has his own voice. Philip Glass has his own voice…I think returning to singable lines and to pieces that are dramatically convincing is the right step. There are so many wonderful new pieces now. The greatest of them take compelling stories and set them to music that enhances them and connects to the audience. Honestly, I think American opera is alive and well and kicking and advancing.”

Mr. Patrick sang at major opera houses throughout the United States including the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, Dallas Opera, and Lyric Opera of Chicago. His career also included international engagements with Netherlands Opera, Opera Marseille, Grand Théâtre de Genève, Lyons Opera, Welsh National Opera, and the Vienna Volksoper.

Although his career took him all over the globe, Mr. Patrick ultimately made his home in Seattle, Washington -- onstage and off. He made several appearances in musicals at Seattle's Fifth Avenue Theatre including 1776, The Most Happy Fellow, and Sweeney Todd. Mr. Patrick sang in nearly 30 productions with Seattle Opera. In 1984, Mr. Patrick sang his first Alberich at Seattle Opera, his other signature role, which he reprised in five presentations of the Ring at Seattle Opera. He made his house debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1988 as Alberich in Wagner’s Rheingold and went on to sing the role for the complete cycle. Mr. Patrick’s Alberich received great critical and audience acclaim.

Mr. Patrick served as a professor of voice at the University of Washington from 1990 until 2005. He served as head of the vocal department from 1996 until 2005. He continued to teach and coach young singers until his passing.

Says Seattle Opera's General Director Speight Jenkins, "Julian Patrick will be severely missed in the city of Seattle, both as artist and teacher. He never gave less than his all, and we were all the richer for it."

Mr. Patrick’s work was recorded for RCA, Columbia, Desto, and various other labels. His discography includes recordings of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, Floyd’s Of Mice and Men, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Massenet’s Manon, Douglas Moore’s Carrie Nation, Robert Starer’s Ariel, Jake Heggie’s For a Look or a Touch, and several Bernstein compilations.

Mr. Patrick is survived by his partner of fifty-six years, Donn Talenti; Donn’s sister Santa May; his nieces and nephews Mark and Melanie May, Linda May and Dr. Lisa and Roland DePietto; and grandnephews Evan and Alexander May and Anthony and Rocco DePietto. A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, June 27th at McCaw Hall in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials and tributes be made to Seattle Opera, PO Box 9248, Seattle, WA 98109.

--Memorial by Rebecca Chawgo