Michele Molese; New York City Opera Tenor
Michele Molese, a tenor best known for his nearly two decades of appearances with the New York City Opera in which he sang most of the roles in the standard repertoire, has died in Italy.
The New York Times reported this week that he had died July 5 in Broni, Italy, at 60 after a heart attack.
Born in New York, Molese studied in Italy, making his debut at the Teatro Nuovo in Milan in 1957. After singing in several other Italian opera houses and then joining the Belgrade Opera in Yugoslavia, he joined the New York City Opera in 1964, making his debut as Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly.” He toured with the company and was a mainstay during the years when the company was Los Angeles’ primary source of opera.
He was noted for his strong voice and durability but once received more publicity over his temperament than his vocalizing.
The New York Times critic Harold Schonberg had written that Molese was guilty of squeezing some high notes during a particular performance.
In 1974, while singing in “A Masked Ball,” the tenor hit a dramatic high C and received the customary applause and cheering. He stopped the performance, turned to the audience and said:
“That pinched high C is for Mr. Schonberg.”
He was fired but later rehired by Julius Rudel, the company’s general manager, and gave his last performance in 1980. Since retiring he had lived in Italy.