News

Opera singer Jerry Hadley, 55, dies after suicide attempt

John von Rhein
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

Jerry Hadley's attractive lyric tenor voice, all-American good looks and exceptional acting ability carried him from a humble farm upbringing in northern Illinois to the world's major opera houses, including a distinguished career with Lyric Opera of Chicago for nearly two decades.

Hadley died Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., two days after he was taken off life support. He was left with severe brain damage after attempting suicide with an air rifle at his home in Clinton Corners, N.Y., on July 10, police said. He was 55.

During the late 1980s and 1990s he was riding high in the opera world, delighting audiences in Mozart, French lyric and Italian roles and modern parts such as Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress."

But opera and concert bookings fell off in his later years. Although Hadley recently had discussed reviving his career by moving into character roles, his personal life was complicated by bouts of depression and financial worries, according to friends.

Hadley was a longtime favorite at Lyric Opera, where he sang an impressive 11 leading tenor roles between his debut with the company as Camille de Rosillon in Lehar's "The Merry Widow" in 1986 and his final performances with the company, as Luigi in the world premiere of William Bolcom and Robert Altman's "A Wedding," in 2005.

Lyric officials say he is the only American tenor to have sung that many principal roles with the company in its entire 53-year history. Moreover, Hadley's 82 Lyric performances in a principal role put him near the top in that category as well.

"Jerry had so much to offer as an artist - voice, looks, musicianship, theatrical flair, extraordinary stylistic versatility," William Mason, Lyric Opera's general director, said in a statement. "He was a natural for all the standard lyric tenor heroes but he also sought out all sorts of off-the-beaten-track repertoire. He always sang the English language with fabulous clarity, which was a huge asset whether he was singing Broadway tunes, operettas, or the title role in `The Great Gatsby.' The range of Jerry's artistry was very evident at Lyric."

Hadley's light voice and easy charm also made him a natural for the American popular song and for music theater repertory, of which he made several recordings. Indeed, some critics, such as New York Magazine's Peter G. Davis, found him more involved and engaging in such works as Jerome Kern's "Show Boat" than in the Puccini or bel canto repertories, which, some critics felt, put more of a strain on his vocal resources.

Hadley was born in Manlius, Ill., and grew up on a 600-acre farm near Princeton, Ill. After vocal studies at the University of Illinois and in New York, he made his debut as Lionel in Flotow's "Martha" in 1978 in Sarasota, Fla. That year, Beverly Sills, who died earlier this month, heard him at auditions of the National Opera Institute and offered him a contract with the New York City Opera. He soon became one of the star singers on the company's roster.

Hadley made his European debut as Nemorino in Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore" in Vienna in 1982 and later appeared in Berlin; Salzburg, Austria; Milan, Italy; London; Berlin, and Munich, Germany as well as at England's Glyndebourne Festival.

He sang at the Metropolitan Opera for the first time in 1987. His final Met performances, in 2002, were in the title role in John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby," a role he created at the Met in 1999 and sang with Lyric Opera in 2000.

Hadley returned to his alma mater, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in February 2006 to sing one of his specialties, the title role in Leonard Bernstein's "Candide."

"His reputation was huge and the large student cast met him with awe. The awe lasted about five minutes. Jerry was so inviting and personal, so human, so real, that the cast quickly took to him as one of (their own)," said Stephen Fiol, who directed the production.

"I envisioned he would become a great mentor and educator in his old age. We are all poorer for this tragic loss."

Hadley's last major performances were in May of this year, when he sang Pinkerton in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" at Opera Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

Hadley was divorced. Survivors include two sons from that marriage.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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