Acclaimed South African heldentenor Johan Botha died Thursday morning in Vienna after a critical battle with cancer. He was 51.
Known for his fluid musicality and gargantuan tenor sound, Botha’s professional role debut came in 1993 when he appeared as Pinkerton in Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” at Opéra Bastille in Paris. In 1997, Botha debuted at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Canio in Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci.” He would go on to sing more than 80 performances in 10 roles with the company over the next 20 years.
Aside from the Metropolitan Opera, Botha sang at virtually every major opera house worldwide, including Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Royal Opera House in London and the Wiener Staatsoper in Vienna.
“We are all deeply affected by this loss – Johan Botha left us way too early,” said Dominique Meyer, General Director of Wiener Staatsoper. “[He] was one of the best tenors worldwide in his fach and has always been one of the most important singers of [Wiener Staatsoper]. He is leaving a considerable void behind.”
Botha’s last public performance was at an opera gala with The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra in collaboration with the Cancer Association of South Africa in August. He was also scheduled to sing Calaf in Puccini’s “Turandot” and Radamès in Verdi’s “Aida” at Vienna State Opera later this year.
Many of the world’s most prominent opera singers and companies took to social media to pay tribute to the late singer.
— Gerald Finley (@GeraldFinley) September 8, 2016
— Christine Goerke (@HeldenMommy) September 8, 2016
The Met Opera mourns the untimely death of tenor Johan Botha. We extend our condolences to his wife, sons & family. https://t.co/cBJhQ2D4wP
— Metropolitan Opera (@MetOpera) September 8, 2016
South African tenor Johan Botha dies at age 51 https://t.co/91nhrwA9DX Huge loss for the opera world. My thoughts are with his family. R.I.P
— Thomas Hampson (@thomashampson) September 8, 2016
Botha is survived by his wife and two sons. As a sign of mourning, the Wiener Staatsoper has hoisted the black flag in honor of Botha and will dedicate its next performance of “Turandot” to the late singer on Sept. 10.