William Justus, a baritone familiar to Southern California audiences for his frequent appearances with the San Diego Opera, has died in Miami, it was learned this week.
Justus, who made his home in Kansas City, Mo., was in Florida on business when he was stricken with an apparent heart attack April 1. He was 49.
He last performed in San Diego in the title role of "Hamlet" in 1983 and previously had been seen with the company as Telramund in "Lohengrin," Gerard in "Andrea Chenier," Alfio in "Cavalleria Rusticana," Tonio in "Pagliacci" and Escamillo in "Carmen."
Justus made his debut in 1962 and the following year won the American Opera Auditions. He sang in Florence and Milan and with the Zurich Opera, returning to the United States to make his first New York City Opera appearance in 1974. With that company, he sang Scarpia in "Tosca," Marcello in "La Boheme," Count Almaviva in "Le Nozze di Figaro" and Jokanaan in "Salome."
He also sang with the Metropolitan, Houston, Boston, Miami and San Francisco opera companies.
In 1968 he began a long association with jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, singing the world premiere of Brubeck's oratorio, "The Light in the Wilderness," in Cincinnati. He subsequently recorded the work for Decca. Last year he sang the world premiere of Brubeck's latest oratorio, "The Voice of the Holy Spirit."
Justus' wife, Barbara, said that when Brubeck next conducts the work May 17 in Ohio, the performance will be dedicated to her husband's memory.