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Ara Berberian (Bass)

Born: May 14, 1930 - Southfield (Detroit), Michigan, USA
Died: February 21, 2005 - Boynton Beach, Florida, USA

The American bass, Ara Berberian, had earned degrees in economics and law from the University of Michigan and was active as economic adviser and as an attorney law for a year. He then studied singing privately with Kenneth Westerman in Ann Arbor, with Themy Georgi in Washington and with Beverley Johnson in New York. He never attended music school.

Ara Berberian moved to New York to become a singer after a stint in the Army. He made his debut in 1958 with the Turnau Opera in Woodstock (New York) as Don Magnifico in the Rossiniís La Cenerentola. His career developed mainly in his American homeland. There he continued to sing particularly at the City Centre Opera New York, San Francisco Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre, and in Baltimore, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Houston (Texas), Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Ottawa and New Orleans. He was engaged from 1979 at the Metropolitan Opera New York (first role: Zacharie in Le Prophète by Meyerbeer). Here he sang in the following ten years numerous bigger and smaller bass roles. In 1990 he could be heard with the Michigan Opera as Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod, in 1991 there and in Detroit as Sarastro, in Santa Fé as Bartolo in Nozze di Figaro and in 1990 in Montreal, in 1992 in Cincinnati as Osmin. In 1965, he appeared at the Carmel Bach Festival under Sandor Salgo. He appeared as a guest also in Europe, among other things. In 1969 in Munich in Roméo et Juliette by H. Berlioz.

Ara Berberian was known for his full-bodied warmth, lyricism and the consistency he brought to more than 100 roles. Among the many roles, which he had in his repertoire, are enumerated: Rocco in Fidelio, King Arkel in Pelléas et Mélisande, Mephisto in Faust by C. Gounod, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, Osmin in Entführung aus dem Serail, Don Marco in 'The Saint of Bleecker Street by Menotti, Don Basilio in Barber of Sevilla by Rossini, Creon in Oedipus Rex by Igor Stravinsky, Alvise in Ponchielliís La Gioconda, Talbot in Maria Stuarda by Donizetti, Big Inquisitor in Verdiís Don Carlos, Daland in Fliegenden Holländer, King Heinrich in Lohengrin, Pogner in Meistersingern, Marke in Tristan, Fafner in Der Ring des Nibelungen and Pimen in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.

Ara Berberian was outstanding also as a concert singer and as a teacher. He also tried out for baseball's minor leagues. He sang the national anthem at the 1984 World Series at Detroit's Tiger Stadium, which he called a bigger thrill than his Met debut. He died in February 2004 from heart failure at his winter home.

Recordings: Mass by J.S. Bach (BWV 232) on RCA, TV and radio opera productions.

Source: Operissimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (May 2004); Andante Website (February 2004)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2004, August 2005, November 2011), nsaz (August 2005); Manfred Krugmann (Photo 02, June 2012)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Pablo Casals


BWV 244 [NYR]

Sandor Salgo


BWV 32, BWV 243 [3rd], BWV 243 [4th], BWV 244 [4th]

Robert Shaw


BWV 232

Links to other Sites

Ara Berberian, Metropolitan opera bass, is dead at 74 (Andante)


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