Los Angeles Opera COO Edgar Baitzel Dies at 51

Classic Arts News   Los Angeles Opera COO Edgar Baitzel Dies at 51
Edgar Baitzel, the chief operating officer of Los Angeles Opera, died yesterday after a brief struggle with cancer. He was 51 years old.

"I say goodbye to my dear friend Edgar Baitzel with the deepest sadness," said company general director Plšcido Domingo today in announcing the loss, "but also with the most sincere gratitude for helping us raise the Company to the extraordinary level it enjoys today on the international scene."

Born in 1955 in Koblenz, Germany, Baitzel studied literature, music and art history at Goethe University; he began his opera career while still enrolled there, as an assistant stage director under Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and G‹tz Friedrich.

In 1978, upon his graduation, Baitzel was hired as assistant manager of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich by then-general manager August Everding. The conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch, who succeeded Everding, appointed Baitzel head dramaturg; in that position he oversaw the company's landmark complete Wagner and Strauss cycles in 1983 and '85. He subsequently served as artistic director at the opera houses in Karlsruhe (where he launched a well-regarded Handel festival) and Bonn, where he first worked with Domingo.

After completing his term in Bonn, Baitzel worked as a freelance stage director and as artistic advisor to the Op_ra de Nice. It was during this period, in 2000, that Domingo, about to take over as general director of Los Angeles Opera, recruited Baitzel as artistic administrator, joining Kent Nagano (music director) and Elizabeth Kennedy (administrative director) as the new management team at the house.

Baitzel and his colleagues, under Domingo's leadership, took Los Angeles Opera into the top tier of American houses. In his six years there, the company went from 66 performances a season to its current 77; L.A. Opera offers 10 productions per season, four to five of them new stagings, as well as two to three major concert presentations.

Baitzel was also key to the company's efforts to recruit from Hollywood's talent pool: among the film and stage directors to work at Los Angeles Opera during his tenure have been Garry Marshall, Julie Taymor, Maximilian Schell, Vincent Paterson and William Friedkin; he also brought in acclaimed London and Broadway director John Doyle, along with stage stars Patti LuPone and Audra McDonald, for the recently completed run of Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Cutting-edge stage directors under Baitzel include Robert Wilson, Achim Freyer, Anne Bogart and Lucinda Childs.

Baitzel and Domingo's most recent coup was the commissioning of film composer Howard Shore (The Lord of the Rings) and director David Cronenberg to create an operatic version of Cronenberg's 1986 film The Fly.

Edgar Baitzel is survived by his wife, Christina, and three children. According to the company, the family requests that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to a charity to be announced. Anyone who wishes to make a contribution can contact Kate McCallum of LA Opera, who may be reached at 1-213-972-8057.

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