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Opera tenor James King dies at age 80

At the Metropolitan Opera, he sang 113 performances over 30 years
/ Source: The Associated Press

James King, an American tenor whose vibrant, powerful voice made him a favorite in leading roles on opera stages around the world during the 1960s and ’70s, has died at the age of 80.

King, who later became a music professor at Indiana University, died Sunday in Naples, Fla., of a heart attack, a school official said.

King, born in Dodge City, Kan., made his professional debut as Don Jose in Bizet’s “Carmen” with the San Francisco Opera and rose to international prominence in 1961 singing the role of Cavaradossi in Puccini’s “Tosca” at Florence’s Teatro della Pergola.

But he won his greatest renown in the German repertory, specializing in the operas of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.

Under the director of legendary conductor Karl Bohm, King sang at Austria’s Salzburg Festival in such roles as Florestan in Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” the Emperor in Strauss’s “Die Frau ohne Schatten” (“The Woman without a Shadow”) and Bacchus in Strauss’s “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

King and Bohm later collaborated on several recordings.

He scored one of his greatest triumphs in 1968 singing the role of Siegmund at London’s Royal Opera House opposite soprano Gwyneth Jones in Wagner’s “Die Walkuere,” part of a “Ring” cycle production conducted by Georg Solti.

At the Metropolitan Opera, he sang 113 performances over 30 years, beginning with his debut in 1966 as Florestan and ending with the character role of Aegisth in Strauss’s “Elektra.”

King also starred in four German opera films and regularly performed on European radio and television opera productions.

He taught music and voice at Indiana University from 1984 until 2002.

“He was very energetic and very inspiring to many, many people,” said Alain Barker, director of marketing for the university’s music school.

His final public performance was in 2000 at the university, where he sang the role of Siegmund from Wagner’s “Die Walkuere.”