Opera New York, Inc.
Co-Founder and Artistic Advisor, emeritus
extraordinary American artist and musician, baritone Chester Ludgin appeared on
the roster of nearly every leading musical organization across the whole of
North America during his forty-five year career. His distinctive, unforgettable
voice and powerful stage presence made him an esteemed leading baritone of the
New York City Opera from 1957 until 1991 and an important part of that
company’s glorious roster of iconic singing-actors from that era.
a result of the extremely favorable press for his creation of the role of John
Proctor in the world premiere of Robert Ward’s The
Crucible at NYCO, Ludgin’s reputation as an exciting singing-actor came to
the attention of opera companies in North America and throughout the world. The
San Francisco Opera Company favored him with the most interesting and dynamic
repertory of his career including the leading baritone roles in such operas as Rigoletto
(his most frequently performed role), Otello,
Aida, Boris Godunov, Lohengrin,
Tristan und Isolde, La
Gioconda, La Fanciulla del West, Tosca,
and the American premieres of Imbrie’s Angle
of Repose and Reimann’s Lear.
creation of Old Sam in the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s final opera, A Quiet Place, at the Houston Grand Opera was a crowning
achievement in Ludgin’s distinguished operatic career, and it subsequently
took him to many of Europe’s operatic capitals including Teatro alla Scala,
Vienna State Opera, Rome Opera, Netherlands Opera and the Scottish Opera.
Bernstein himself described Ludgin as being “a man of enormous gifts
dramatically and vocally,” and “the kind of singing-actor that defines the
very term, with colossal energy, integrity and sincerity in every performance
that I have witnessed.”
a repertory of well over one-hundred operatic roles, and though he sang all of
the standard leading roles at NYCO and elsewhere, he is perhaps best remembered
as a tireless, passionate advocate of contemporary opera, creating numerous
leading roles in both American (8) and world premieres (12).
In addition to the opera companies Mr. Ludgin appeared regularly with some of
world’s leading orchestras including: Amsterdam, Baltimore, Central City,
Chattanooga, Chautauqua, Chicago, Cincinnati, Denver, Detroit, Edmonton, Fort
Worth, Hartford, Honolulu, Little Rock, Louisville, Los Angeles, Memphis, Mexico
City, Miami, Milwaukee, Mobile, Montreal, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Omaha,
Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Reno, Sacramento, St. Paul, San Antonio, San Diego,
Santa Fe, Seattle, Syracuse, Toronto, Tulsa, as well as Vancouver.
towering, impressive figure on the stage; a memorable, totally involved
singing-actor of equal parts intensity and intellect; an imposing Verdi Baritone
voice of great strength, trumpeting brilliance, rich beauty and startling
compass; a musician of incisive, detailed preparation and near limitless
imagination and resource; a performer of indefatigable energy and unstinting,
generous heart; a beloved colleague of unsurpassed humanity, warmth and
supportive, calm inspiration. . .” These
are just some of the words that have been used over the last fifty years by
colleagues and critics to describe Chester.
unfailing collegiality, infectious joie de vivre, and phenomenal
performing spirit endeared him to friends and audiences the world over for the
entire length of his unique and remarkable career, ensuring him a special place
on the list of great American operatic performers.
Ludgin was born in New York City and trained entirely in America. His career was
an undeniable achievement and a favorite argument against those who believe that
operatic eminence can be achieved only after European study.
Chester Ludgin as 'Scarpia'