Monday, December 21, 2009

In Memoriam: Perry Lorenzo

Dear Friends of Seattle Opera,

I want to take this opportunity to memorialize Perry Lorenzo. Seattle Opera's Director of Education for almost 20 years, he passed away on December 19. He had fought lung cancer valiantly for seven months. At only 51 he had accomplished more than many do in a lifetime.

His love of opera started so far as I know with his first performance of Götterdämmerung in 1975, which happened to be the first presented by Seattle Opera. He attended every single Ring performance this company gave until he became ill. From 1982 to 1992 he taught at Kennedy High School in Burien and, as a teacher in the humanities, managed to involve countless students in opera. I first met Perry when I was called to judge a competition of the students in his senior class. In groups of two or three they were asked to design an opera; the thoroughness of their grasp of the operas they chose testified to his remarkable inspirational and teaching abilities. I lured him to Seattle Opera in 1992 as director of a fledgling Education Department, and he quickly revolutionized what we were doing.

He knew that students cannot be expected to appreciate our art form without education, and he made sure that every one of the teachers of the 700 students who come to each of our dress rehearsals was prepared to introduce their classes to the opera they were going to see. Ever since Perry came to Seattle Opera, the students are among our most perceptive audiences.

Perry brought talented young people to work in education and began to share the lecturing with them. We developed one of the largest arts education programs in Seattle, giving around fifty lectures per opera.

Perry was eager to begin a Young Artists program and from its inception in 1998, he has been both an involved director of the program and an avid supporter of each of the artists chosen. He oversaw the program's development in length and scope. The tours over the whole state in the fall, the 70-minute program for kindergarten through the sixth grade, and the fully staged opera in the spring have all been equally important to him. He encouraged Seattle Opera to engage Peter Kazaras as artistic director of the program and Brian Garman as music director, but continued to take an active part in choosing repertory and the singers themselves.

In addition to all that he did on opera, he had a strong belief in ecumenism. He moderated many panels on this subject with representatives of all faiths. He lectured frequently on opera at Seattle University but also on the need for a feeling of brotherhood between faiths.

These are the facts but they fail to capture the irrepressible excitement about opera that Perry conveyed. He was an intent and critical observer of our art form. He said frequently to me that I didn't pay him to tell me anything but the truth, and sometimes his truth was tough. But when we did something well, his ability to grasp the essence of why it was good always amazed and moved me. His love for opera, in particular for this company, knew no bounds. Offered many other positions, he turned them all down without a second thought. Seattle Opera was what he believed in, and he was determined always to make it better, more productive and more an active part of the life of Seattle.

Perry was proud of being an intellectual and the most devout Catholic whom I have ever met. But even more important to me he was a unique individual, one who touched the lives of many, often lifted their spirits, and enlightened all with whom he came in contact to the value of great art.

A funeral service will take place at St. James Cathedral on December 30 at 2:00 p.m. Seattle Opera will hold a celebration of Perry Lorenzo's life on January 9, 2010, at 3:00 p.m. in the auditorium of Marion Oliver McCaw Hall in Seattle. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed to Seattle Opera's Perry Lorenzo Fund for In-School Education, or to St. James Cathedral.


Speight Jenkins
General Director


  1. Dear Mr. Jenkins.
    My name is Harald Tilgner, a soaring friend of Bob Lorenzo, Perry's dad. It is with great sorrow to learn of Perry's death. At 51 he had just barely begun to realize his gift to humanity, and, what is even more tragic, it did not have to happen! Lung cancer is curable, as are all cancers. Dr. med. Mag. theol. Ryke Geerd Hamer, a German physician of internal medicine has re-discovered 5 Biological Laws of Nature in 1981 and he had handed into his university his habilitation on the subject with the request, that the university verify his findings and make this knowledge available to the rest of the world. However to this day the university has refused to officially verify his work. Millions of people die needlessly because of the ignorance of the medical establishment. You may check out the facts here: .
    The part, that really and truly bothers me, is, that you lost two very capable people within a month and this could have been prevented, because Leukemia is the healing phase of a self devaluation conflict.
    If these fine people could now have a choice denied them by the present medical practices, I am sure they would agree with me, that their deaths should not be in vain and the knowledge of Dr. Hamer's discoveries be diseminated far and wide.
    Sincerely, Harald Tilgner, Canada.

  2. Perry Lorenzo meant so much to so many and we at Seattle University will miss him terribly. He was a gifted teacher and an erudite intellectual with a wry and wicked sense of humor who never, ever failed to leave me in awe of the depth and breadth of his knowledge. He illuminated our lives and his death in the bleak midwinter leaves an unfillable emptiness.

  3. Thanks, Speight,
    for such a comprehensive and compassionate testimony of the comprehensive contribution Perry made to Seattle Opera, the youth of the area, and to humanity!!!
    He will be impossible to replace; hopefully you will find someone, who, at least, can make a commensurate contribution in some other way!!
    Most sincerely,
    Win H.

  4. Dear Mr. Jenkins,
    Mr. Lorenzo was the reason I went to Seattle in 1995 for the Ring. The lectures he had given in San Francisco had opened my eyes and changed my perspective on Wagner's music. It was the first time I made a trip specifically to see the Ring, my "tradition" that culminated last year in Bayreuth.
    I managed to catch Mr. Lorenzo's lectures whenever he was in the Bay Area, and now I am still struggling to reconcile with the reality that I will never be able to hear him and be in awe of his vast knowledge and intellect again.
    I thank Mr. Lorenzo for that life-changing experience in Seattle and Seattle Opera for making his lecture CD's which I treasure, and thank you for having Mr. Lorenzo at Seattle Opera.
    I heard that the memorial service for Mr. Lorenzo is today. I am not a Catholic and am barely Buddhist, but I will be burning incense and be thinking about him.
    Miyako Marque
    member: Wagner Society of Northern California