John Macurdy

John Macurdy Biography

John Macurdy (né John Edward McCurdy, in Detroit, Michigan, on March 18, 1929) is an esteemed American operatic bass. Among his teachers was the contralto Elisabeth Wood, who was also the pedagogue of Norman Treigle.

Début in New Orleans

Macurdy made his formal debut with the New Orleans Opera Association on the opening night of the 1952-53 season, as the Old Hebrew in Samson et Dalila, with Ramón Vinay and Blanche Thebom in the cast, which was conducted by Walter Herbert and staged by Wilhelm von Wymetal. He went on to appear with that company until 1959, in Thaïs, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (conducted by Julius Rudel), The Consul and Norma. He was to return to New Orleans for Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, in 1979. During those years, he also occasionally performed with other companies, notably portraying Mr Earnshaw in the world premiere of Carlisle Floyd's Wuthering Heights, at the Santa Fe Opera in 1958.

New York City Opera

In 1959, Macurdy made his New York City Opera debut, as Dr Wilson in Street Scene. Among his other roles there, until 1962, were Jabez Stone in The Devil and Daniel Webster, the Basso Cantante in Six Characters in Search of an Author (world premiere, with Beverly Sills), William Jennings Bryan in The Ballad of Baby Doe, Mr Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights (opposite Phyllis Curtin and Patricia Neway), Créon in "?dipus rex (conducted by Leopold Stokowski), Colline in La bohème, Timur in Turandot, President Prexy in The Cradle Will Rock, a Priest in Il prigioniero (with Treigle), Sparafucile in Rigoletto, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, the King of Egypt (later Ramfis) in Aïda, Reb Bashevi in The Golem (world premiere), and the Reverend John Hale in The Crucible (with Chester Ludgin). He made a return to that ensemble in 1979, for a single performance of Raimondo Bidebent in Lucia di Lammermoor.

Metropolitan Opera

It was the Metropolitan Opera that would become the bass' artistic home, starting with Tom in Un ballo in maschera, in 1962. From then, until 1997, Macurdy would sing more than 1000 performances, in a great variety of roles, including the King (later Ramfis) in Aïda, Alessio (later Count Rodolfo) in La sonnambula (opposite Dame Joan Sutherland), Don Basilio in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni (perhaps his most acclaimed role), Ferrando in Il trovatore, Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Colline, Count des Grieux in Manon, Daland in Der fliegende Holländer, Sparafucile, Agrippa in Antony and Cleopatra (world premiere), King Heinrich in Lohengrin, Sarastro, Ezra Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra (world premiere), Alvise Badoero in La Gioconda, Hunding in Die Walküre (with Jon Vickers), Count Walter in Luisa Miller (with Montserrat Caballé), Timur, Raimondo (to Renata Scotto's Lucia), the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos (with Franco Corelli), Titurel (later Gurnemanz) in Parsifal, King Marke in Tristan und Isolde, Rocco in Fidelio (with Anja Silja in her Met debut), Méphistophélès in Faust, Pimenn in Boris Godunov, Oroveso in Norma, and Tirésias in "?dipus rex (in John Dexter's production). In the year 2000, he returned to the Met, for Hagen in Götterdämmerung, under James Levine.


Macurdy has also appeared at the Paris Opéra (Arkel in Pelléas et Mélisande, 1973), Teatro alla Scala (Rocco in Fidelio, 1974), Teatro Colón and Salzburg Festival. In 1978, he portrayed the Commendatore in Joseph Losey's famous film of Don Giovanni, with Ruggero Raimondi, Edda Moser, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Kenneth Riegel, José van Dam, and Teresa Berganza, conducted by Lorin Maazel.

Commercial discography

  • Ward: The Crucible (Ludgin; Buckley, 1962) CRI
  • Beethoven: Ninth Symphony (Ormandy, p. 1966) CBS/Sony
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni (Milnes; Böhm, 1977) [live] Deutsche Grammophon
  • Mozart: Don Giovanni (Raimondi; Maazel, 1978) CBS/Sony
  • Verdi: Otello (Ricciarelli, Domingo, Díaz; Maazel, 1985) EMI

Commercial videography

  • Mozart: Don Giovanni (Raimondi; Maazel, Losey, 1978)
  • Wagner: Tannhäuser (Cassilly; Levine, Schenk/Berkowitz, 1982) [live]
  • Wagner: Lohengrin (Hofmann; Levine, Everding, 1986) [live]

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