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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Richard McKee (1941-2013)

In Memoriam: Richard McKee stopped by my house in Schenectady one wintry day in 1985 so that I could interview him for the piece below. We became and remained very close friends.


BASS-BARITONE RICHARD MCKEE sang in a performance of Handel’s “Messiah” in Amsterdam last Saturday. This Friday he’ll be a soloist with the Octavo Singers in their “Messiah” at Proctor’s Theatre.

Richard McKee
It would seem that the Christmas season would be a steady source of “Messiahs,” but, as McKee explains, that hasn’t been his experience.

“I haven’t sung that part for years because I’ve been on the road so much. But my wife and I bought a house in Amsterdam a year and a half ago and I’m having the pleasant experience of being part of a community. That’s what has brought me these Messiahs, and I’m delighted.”

McKee has an imposing presence that complements his very imposing voice. He has a repertory of over 80 operatic roles, many of them in conjunction with the New York City Opera, with whom he has performed every season since his debut there in 1974.

“I just finished up a season that included ‘Daughter of the Regiment,’ ‘The Mikado,’ in which I started as Poo-Bah and later took over the title role; ‘Love for Three Oranges’ with wonderful sets by Maurice Sendak, ‘Kismet,’ and ‘La Rondine.’

“They just signed me to a six-month contract with the option of another one, which is very ironic. My wife and I settled in Amsterdam because I had been working free-lance and had to travel to every job – It really didn’t matter where I travelled from. Now that we’ve settled down. I’m working steadily in New York.”

He gives a Mikado-like laugh. “But we have a beautiful large old house with lots and lots of room, and I’d hate to try to get something like it down in the city.” His wife, Dr. Carolyn Mook, has a practice in Amsterdam. “She’s the only oncologist in town and is on call pretty much all the time. It’s quite a contrast of professions.

“She was doing makeup for Glimmerglass Opera in Cooperstown as a hobby and that’s where we met. She did my wigs for me when I was there a few seasons ago.”

Of late, McKee has made a specialty of buffo roles and soon will be branching out in another direction he wishes to follow – direction. This will be a production of “The Barber of Seville” for the Charlotte Opera in North Carolina. “I’m directing it and singing the part of Dr. Bartolo, and Tim Nolen is singing Figaro.

“I have a lot more freedom at this stage in my career, and that’s nice. I don’t feel I have to take every poopy role that comes my way. So this is the right time for me to settle down a bit and be part of a community, don’t you think?”

George Moross is directing the Octavo’s “Messiah,” with a cast that also includes soprano Kim Weisheit Olson, alto Sondra Gelb, and tenor Alan Bowers. The performance will take place at 8 pm. Tickets are $6 and can be obtained at Community Box Office outlets and at the door.

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 18 December 1985


Meagan Miller said...

RIP to a wonderful artist and man - thanks for this post!

Melanie Brunet Relyea said...

Byron - Richard spoke of you often and had many stories to tell. He truly valued your wit, intelligence and friendship. My sincere condolences as I'm sure you felt the same for him.