73-year-old conductor collapses and dies mid-performance at leading German opera house

25 July 2022, 11:15 | Updated: 25 July 2022, 12:08

Stefan Soltesz was conducting at the Bavarian State Opera when he collapsed at the podium during the first act
Stefan Soltesz was conducting at the Bavarian State Opera when he collapsed at the podium during the first act. Picture: Getty

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Stefan Soltész is the fourth conductor to collapse during a performance at the Bavarian State Opera over the past century.

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Hungarian-born Austrian conductor, Stefan Soltész collapsed at the podium of the Bavarian State Opera on Friday evening, and died later that night.

The 73-year-old maestro passed out towards the end of the first act of StraussDie schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman) which he was conducting at the Munich based opera house.

Over the weekend, the Bavarian State Opera released a statement on its website reading, “It is with shock and deep sadness that the Bayerische Staatsoper has to announce the loss of Stefan Soltész.

“He passed away on the evening of July 22, 2022 after collapsing during his conducting of Die schweigsame Frau by Richard Strauss at the Nationaltheater. Our thoughts are with his wife Michaela.”

Serge Dorny, the opera company’s general director, tweeted on Friday night that, “We are losing a gifted conductor, and I have lost a good friend.”

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After Soltész’s fall, the opera came to a halt, with an immediate 30-minute interval called for the audience. When the audience returned after the break, the state opera’s artistic operations manager, Tillmann Wiegand, announced that the production had been cancelled.

Soltész was seen by the on-site doctor at the theatre, before being rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead later that night.

The maestro is the fourth conductor to collapse mid-performance at the Munich based opera house. In 1911 the 56-year-old Austrian conductor, Felix Mottl, collapsed while conducting his 100th performance of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. He died 11 days later.

In 1968, the 60-year-old German conductor Joseph Keilberth died at the podium during a performance of the same opera. And in 1989, the 57-year-old Italian conductor, Giuseppe Patanè collapsed while conducting Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Patanè was pronounced dead at a hospital just hours later.

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Artists across Europe and beyond have taken to social media to mourn the death of Soltész over the weekend.

Born in 1949, Soltész trained in Vienna before going on to lead the Aalto Theatre in Essen to international acclaim as the opera house’s artistic director. He was also the music director of the Essen Philharmonic, and earned a Grammy nomination for an album he directed with the ensemble.

The Strauss opera Soltész had been conducting was a revival of a 2010 production by Australian opera director, Barrie Kosky. The two artists had worked on numerous projects together throughout Germany.

On learning of Soltész’s death on saturday morning, Kosky shared his grief and told the New York Times that the conductor was “an amazing musician”, and “the real thing”.