Italian Conductor Sinopoli Dies during Performance of Aida
Italian conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli died after suffering a heart attack while conducting Berlin's Deutsche Opera in a performance of Verdi's Aida, the opera announced. He was 54.
Sinopoli was at his conductor's rostrum in the orchestra pit Friday night when he dropped his baton and fell to the floor during the third act.
Members of the orchestra helped him into the wings where he died shortly afterwards of a massive heart attack, despite the attention of medics.
He becomes the fifth conductor since 1911 to die after suffering a heart attack while conducting an orchestra.
Sinopoli, chief conductor at Dresden's highly reputed Staatskapelle since 1992, was one of the most lauded conductors in the world as well as being a composer and medical doctor.
He performed in all the great opera houses, including Milan's La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera in New York as well as the Paris Opera and London's Covent Garden.
In recent years, he was a regular at the shrine to Wagnerian music, the Bayreuth festival, where he was to conduct the Ring Cycle this year.
Festival organizers said they were "dejected and stunned" over the death of the conductor, who also conducted the Ring Cycle in Bayreuth last year.
They now have a little over three months to find a replacement for Sinopoli.
In Italy, Prime Minister Giuliano Amato, along with members of the government coalition and the opposition, paid tribute to Sinopoli on Saturday as a leading light of Italian culture and a significant representative of the international arts scene.
"A great Italian has left us," said Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The director of the La Scala opera company, Riccardo Muti, described Sinopoli's death as "an irreparable loss for music".
Born in Venice on November 2, 1946, Sinopoli studied music at the Venice Conservatory and medicine at the University of Padua simultaneously.
He graduated in 1972 with a doctoral dissertation on criminal anthropology.
He studied music under Bruno Maderna and Karlheinz Stockhausen and, from 1969 to 1973, under Franco Donatoni at the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Siena, eventually becoming his assistant.
From 1972, he also attended courses given by Hans Swarowsky in Vienna.
By 1981, he was composing his own pieces and saw his work "Lou Salome" performed at the Munich Opera.
In 1983, Sinopoli was appointed as principal conductor of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia Orchestra in Rome. The same year he made his debut at the Met with Puccini's "Tosca" and at Bayreuth with Wagner's "Tannhauser".
Four other prominent conductors have died after suffering heart attacks at the rostrum.
In 1911, Austrian Felix Mottl died in Munich during the second act of Wagner's "Tristan and Isolde".
In a strange coincidence, the German Joseph Keilberth also died in Munich during the same act of the Wagner opera in 1968.
In 1959, Dutchman Eduard Alexander van Beinum, chief conductor at Amsterdam's Royal Concertgebouw, was forced to leave a performance of a Brahms symphony when he felt unwell, and died shortly afterwards.
Dimitri Mitropoulos, a Greek, died at La Scala in Milan during a rehearsal of Mahler's third symphony in 1960 -- AFP
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