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Stephen Gould 2017 as Otello at the Semperoper in Dresden: Marathon Man

Photo: Arno Burgi / dpa

Wagner tenor Stephen Gould has died. He was 61 years old. "We are stunned and in deep mourning. Our thoughts are with his family and friends," his artist agency said. Gould died on Tuesday. Just a few weeks ago, the American had made a serious cancer public.

Actually, Gould had been scheduled for three major roles at this year's Richard Wagner Festival in Bayreuth in the summer, once again he should have shone as Wagner's marathon man. However, he had cancelled for health reasons. At the end of August, he announced the end of his career, followed a little later by the news of the serious illness. There was no chance of a cure, he had declared at the beginning of September.

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Gould in the Bayreuth »Götterdämmerung« 2006: Wagner as »Meditation« and »Mantra«

Photo: Eckehard Schulz / AP

The American was one of the most important heroic tenors of the past decades and has held the honorary title of "Österreichischer Kammersänger" since 2015.

The Bayreuth Festival reacted "stunned" to the death of the popular singer: "With him, the Bayreuth Festival and the entire opera world have lost an outstanding singer, performer, teacher, friend and esteemed colleague." Gould had deliberately made the severity of his illness public only after the end of this year's festival, so as not to overshadow the performances.

Gould was closely associated with the festival. He made his debut here 19 years ago as Tannhäuser. By 2022, he had sung almost 100 performances here and quickly became an audience favorite on the Green Hill. He also frequently sang the title role in »Tristan und Isolde«, which is considered particularly challenging. He was heard for the first time in Bayreuth as Tristan in 2015, it was staged by Festival Director Katharina Wagner, conducted by Christian Thielemann at the time.

In 2022, Gould told broadcaster BR Klassik: "I'm not a sprinter. More of a long-distance runner. It is a pity that in our world with TikTok, everything has to happen in the shortest possible time. Wagner is not an opera, it is not entertainment. It's a meditation, a mantra."

In addition, he shone last year at the first open-air festival in Bayreuth and received great acclaim not only for excerpts from Wagner's work, but also for the Lehár song "Dein ist mein ganze Herz". Gould earned a reputation as the Bayreuth "Iron Man" because he sang so many long roles there. His remarkable stamina, irrepressible curiosity and the highest level of professionalism, also in dealing with colleagues, distinguished him," wrote the Bayreuth Festival in its obituary. We would like to thank Stephen Gould for the many unforgettable evenings at the Bayreuth Festival, which he gave us with his unique voice and his grandiose stage presence. We will miss him unlikely, he will remain part of the Festival family forever.«

In addition to Bayreuth and Vienna, Gould was also frequently heard in Tokyo and Berlin. Before he was able to establish himself in the German repertoire, he sang, for example, in numerous performances of the musical »The Phantom of the Opera«. Stephen Gould was born in Roanoke, Virginia in 1962. In the U.S. state, he also succumbed to the disease caused by bile duct carcinoma, according to his agency.