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Tenor on life support after suicide attempt, police say

July 12, 2007|Chris Pasles | Times Staff Writer

Jerry Hadley, once an acclaimed American tenor, was on life support after apparently shooting himself in the head with an air rifle Tuesday morning in his home in upstate New York, according to a senior investigator with the New York State Police.

Hadley, 55, was taken to St. Francis Hospital and Health Centers in Poughkeepsie, where neurosurgeons determined that he suffered severe brain injuries, investigator Robert Rochler said Wednesday. The hospital will evaluate his condition today, Rochler said, "to determine if he is to remain on life support."

The case was being investigated as an attempted suicide, according to Rochler.

A protege of renowned soprano Joan Sutherland and her husband, conductor Richard Bonynge, Hadley was once considered one of America's most important and versatile tenors. He sang with the New York City Opera from 1979 to 1989 and made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1987. He created the title role of John Harbison's "The Great Gatsby" at the Met in 1999 and last sang there in 2002.

After that, his career seemed to falter. In May 2006, he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving while sitting in a parked car on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, but the charges were dropped at the request of prosecutors.

His last performance was in May, singing Pinkerton in Puccini's "Madame Butterfly" for Opera Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, according to Celia Novo, who was speaking for Hadley's ex-wife, pianist Cheryll Drake Hadley, and their two sons.

"He was performing up until recently," Novo said Wednesday. "I saw him 10 days ago, and everything was fine."

Composer Harbison, however, told the New York Times on Wednesday: "I know he's been in really bad trouble. He's been very depressed."

Hadley was known for the lyric beauty of his Mozart, Rossini and Gounod, but he was also at home on Broadway, in operetta and singing in recordings of Jerome Kern's "Show Boat" and Paul McCartney's "Liverpool Oratorio." He won three Grammy Awards.

Born to an Italian mother and English father and raised in the Midwest, Hadley first studied to be a conductor, but after four years turned to singing. He made his opera debut in 1976 at the Lake George Opera Festival and his European debut in 1982 at the Vienna State Opera.

His sang leading roles in Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress," Mozart's "Cosi fan tutte" and "The Magic Flute," Donizetti's "The Elixir of Love" and Verdi's "La Traviata," among others. He also created the title role of Myron Fink's "The Conquistador" in San Diego in 1997. He also sang at Covent Garden in London and at La Scala in Milan, Italy.


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