Jerry Hadley

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Jerry Hadley

Jerry Hadley (June 16, 1952 – July 18, 2007) was an American operatic tenor. He received three Grammy awards for his vocal performances in the recordings of Jenůfa (2004 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording), Susannah (1995 Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording), and Candide (1992 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album). Hadley was a leading American tenor for nearly two decades.[1] He was mentored by soprano Joan Sutherland and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge.[2] Leonard Bernstein chose Hadley for his 1989 recording of Candide on Deutsche Grammophon.[2] A versatile singer, Hadley was equally at home in opera and operetta and on Broadway.

Early life and training[edit]

Hadley was born and raised in Manlius, Illinois, of Italian and English parents. He attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he was a member of the Delta Nu chapter of Phi Mu Alpha, a men's music fraternity. Hadley first studied to become a conductor, but after four years turned to singing. He studied voice under Dr. John Davis while at Bradley, ultimately earning his master's degree in voice at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. At Illinois he studied voice with Grace Wilson and James Bailey, and coached with pianists John Wustman and Eric Dalheim.[3] He starred in many School of Music opera productions, including Tamino in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Nemorino in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore, Alfred in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus, and Tom Rakewell in The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky.


Hadley married pianist Cheryll Drake and moved to Connecticut, where he took a job teaching music. In 1978 he began studying voice with Thomas LoMonaco, who would remain his teacher for the next 12 years.

Hadley's early years as a professional singer were spent in regional opera houses in the U.S. He impressed Beverly Sills, who had heard him in the National Opera Institute auditions in 1978 and offered him a New York City Opera contract.[4] Hadley became a regular member of the roster of the New York City Opera after his debut there as Arturo in Lucia di Lammermoor in 1979.

In 1982 he made his first appearance at the Vienna State Opera as Nemorino in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. He frequently performed at the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Hamburg State Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the San Francisco Opera, the San Diego Opera and the Glyndebourne, Aix-en-Provence and Salzburg festivals.

Hadley was known for his interpretations of lyric tenor opera roles as well as his performances of Broadway musicals, operetta, and popular music. One of his best-selling recordings was the EMI three-CD recording of the complete score of Show Boat, conducted by John McGlinn. Hadley sang the role of Gaylord Ravenal.

Hadley sang the tenor roles of the bel canto repertory (Il Barbiere di Siviglia, L'elisir d'amore, Anna Bolena, La bohème, Lucia di Lammermoor) as well as Mozart (Così fan tutte, Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute, La clemenza di Tito) and the French Romantics (Les contes d'Hoffmann, Faust, Werther, Manon). He also sang the tenor soloist in Handel's Messiah and Verdi's Requiem. He sang the role of Tom Rakewell in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress for much of his career, first performing it while a graduate student at the University of Illinois.

In the early 1990s, Hadley appeared on The Long Goodbye, an album of reinterpretations of the music of Procol Harum featuring past and present members of the band, augmented by orchestra and guest vocalists; Hadley's contribution was a stirring vocal interpretation of the classic, "Grand Hotel".

In 1996, Hadley commissioned the composer Daniel Steven Crafts to create music for selected poems by Carl Sandburg.[5] The work, The Song and The Slogan, premiered in 2000 at the University of Illinois, and was made into a PBS video, which won an Emmy Award for Best Musical Performance by the Mid-America Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Among the performers in the premiere were university professors and musicians with whom he had worked while a student, including pianist Eric Dalheim, conductor Paul Vermel,[6] and cellist Barbara Hedlund.[7]

Hadley created the role of Don Luis de Carvajal y de la Cueva, in Myron Fink's 1997 opera, The Conquistador,[8][9] and the title role in John Harbison's 1999 The Great Gatsby, based on the novel of the same name. Outside opera, he created in 1991 the tenor part in Paul McCartney's Liverpool Oratorio.

At the 1998 Salzburg Festival, Hadley sang the lead tenor role in Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, a staging that was filmed and commercially released. But Hadley made many recordings. He recorded under Richard Bonynge's baton in the bel canto genre, and Leonard Bernstein selected him to sing the title role in a complete 1989 recording of his operetta Candide, led by the composer a year before he died; London concerts of the operetta given that year with the same principal singers, including Hadley, were separately televised and commercially released.

As a recitalist, Hadley gave concerts in Europe and the United States, and his performances regularly featured American music. He performed frequently with the American conductor-pianist Alexander Frey, and at the time of Hadley's death they were planning to record two new solo compact discs of song repertoire of Austria and Hollywood. Hadley also performed frequently with pianist Eric Dalheim.

Divorce and later career[edit]

Following his divorce from pianist Cheryll Drake Hadley in 2002, Hadley abandoned singing and the stage for almost two years.

Starting in 2004, however, he had begun a major comeback, with the public and critics noting a renewed freshness, control and vibrancy to his voice.

On July 12, 2004, Hadley, with Sondra Radvanovsky, Marianne Cornetti, John Relyea performed a critically acclaimed Verdi Requiem with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh[10] under the direction of Gilbert Levine.[11]

On July 29, 2005, Jerry Hadley joined soloists: Bożena Harasimowicz, Monica Groop, and Franz-Josef Selig, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir, under conductor Gilbert Levine, in a gala performance of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in Cologne Cathedral. The performance was broadcast live on Westdeutscher Rundfunk (West German television),[12] on 3sat throughout Europe and on PBS stations nationwide in the U.S.[13] The performance was also released on DVD by Arthaus Musik[14]

Hadley's last operatic performances were in May 2007 in Brisbane, Australia, as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with Opera Queensland.

In an interview with The Courier-Mail, Hadley commented on his return to the stage after his long absence since his divorce: "A wounded bird cannot sing. It was tough. It was emotionally distressing and it goes straight to the throat. So I took some time off and sat in the quiet for a while. I never really understood how inseparable was the journey of the spirit and the journey of singing and making music. For the first time in my life I couldn't see a way forward. But I came out on the other side of it with a deeper appreciation of what a great gift and great opportunities God has given me."[15]


On July 10, 2007, Hadley sustained a catastrophic brain injury after apparently shooting himself in the head with an air rifle at his home in Clinton Corners, New York.[16] Hearing the shot, his fiancée called 911.[17] Hadley was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, New York where CAT scans and X-rays showed severe brain injury; he was put on life support.[18] On July 16, he was taken off life support.[19] Hadley died two days later.[20]




  1. ^ Child, Fred. "Jerry Hadley, Operatic Tenor, Dies at 55" (audio segment). National Public Radio. July 19, 2007.
  2. ^ a b "Jerry Hadley, Operatic Tenor, Dies at 55" by Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times, July 18, 2007
  3. ^ "Eric Dalheim". Archived from the original on 2015-10-03. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  4. ^ John von Rhein (July 19, 2007). "Jerry Hadley, 55, famed tenor". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 18 May 2022 – via South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
  5. ^ "Song and Slogan". Archived from the original on 2015-09-30. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  6. ^ "Paul Vermel". Archived from the original on 2008-05-16. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  7. ^ "Barbara Hedlund". Archived from the original on 2009-05-29. Retrieved 2008-05-25.
  8. ^ The Conquistador, opera in three acts. Retrieved on July 19, 2007
  9. ^ Jerry Hadley: Creating the role of The Conquistador. Retrieved on July 19, 2007
  10. ^ Symphony Plays Superbly as Levine Conducts Verdi's Requiem.
  11. ^ Gilbert Levine, Conductor, New York
  12. ^ Ludwig van Beethoven: Missa solemnis (2005) at IMDb
  13. ^ "Gilbert Levine '71 brings 'Missa Solemnis' to public television", Princeton Alumni Weekly, April 2, 2008
  14. ^ Missa Solemnis (DVD, 2005), Arthaus Musik
  15. ^ "Opera makes a flutter", The Courier-Mail, May 12, 2007. Retrieved on 21 July 2007.[dead link]Archived 2009-02-21 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ In the months prior to his death Hadley had been suffering from vocal and financial problems and was under treatment for depression. In May 2006, he was arrested in Manhattan for intent to drive while intoxicated, but the charges were eventually dropped (Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2007; Peoria Star-Journal, July 16, 2007; The New York Times, 23 February 2007).[full citation needed]
  17. ^ "Tenor Is Gravely Injured After Shooting Himself, Police Say" by Daniel J. Wakin, The New York Times, July 12, 2007. Accessed July 13, 2007.
  18. ^ "Hadley remains in 'extremely grave' condition" from Associated Press, July 13, 2007. Accessed July 14, 2007.
  19. ^ "Tenor Jerry Hadley taken off life support". 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
  20. ^ "Tenor Jerry Hadley dead at 55" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on 2007 July 18.
  21. ^ Faust, ArkivMusic
  22. ^ Werther at Discogs

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]