Aspen Music Festival Opera Program Director Edward Berkeley Has Died, Aged 76

The sad news came moments before a performance directed by Berkeley was about to start

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Berkeley’s production of Mozart’s "The Magic Flute" was opening at the Benedict Music Tent on Saturday when his passing away was announced from the stage. 

Alan Fletcher, Aspen Music Festival and School’s (AMFS) president and CEO, music director Robert Spano, and board chair Michael Klein led the audience in a moment of silence before beginning the performance in Berkeley’s honor. The cause of his death is under investigation. 

"However strange it may seem on the surface, to have 'The Magic Flute' upon hearing this news is a testament to the joy he gave all of us and the ebullience of this music speaks to the ebullience he brought to his students and the genius he brought to Aspen every year," Spano told the audience. "We are all going to miss him terribly."

"The entire cast, orchestra, and AMFS artist-faculty and staff are channeling their emotion into the performance tonight that we are dedicating to him, and it is an emotional moment," said Fletcher.

In addition to working with the AMFS, Berkeley directed productions with the New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, and the Baltimore Symphony — and regularly directed opera for the Boston Youth Symphony. He was also a faculty member at The Juilliard School since 1987.

"We were shocked and deeply saddened to have learned last night, shortly before a performance showcasing his directorial and storytelling brilliance, that the longtime leader of Aspen’s opera program, Edward Berkeley, died," reads AMFS’ Facebook post.

"This was Ed’s 40th summer with the Festival, and his contributions to the institution and to the young singers he nurtured in the program, are immeasurable.

"He was beloved by so many in the AMFS audience and community, and his dry wit, dimensional productions, and coaching in signature knee socks will be deeply missed."

Our condolences to Mr. Berkeley’s family, friends, and colleagues.