Music Director Mourns Loss of David Vosburgh

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The upcoming performance of “Carmen” will be the first production by Opera Western Reserve since the death of David Vosburgh, who founded the company in 2004.

Vosburgh was the artistic director of OWR until 2019, when he retired and moved to Massachusetts. He died Nov. 2 at age 85.

Susan Davenny Wyner has also been part of OWR since its inception. As music director, she worked side by side with Vosburgh on more than a dozen operas.

Susan Davenny Wyner

Wyner says the Nov. 17 performance of “Carmen” will be all the more poignant because of Vosburgh’s death.

Vosburgh was a professional opera singer in New York in his younger years, and also an educator. After moving to Youngstown, he continued to teach opera.

He was also the executive director of the Youngstown Playhouse for several years.

A documentary on Vosburgh, made by Youngstown filmmaker Adam Michael, got its world premiere Nov. 9 at Stambaugh Auditorium.

Wyner says she spoke with Vosburgh just days before his death. “He was so excited about the documentary,” she says.

Vosburgh’s death is heartbreaking, she says.

“He was such a spirit, a man of extraordinary energy, brilliant and full of ideas,” Wyner says. “And of course, he was the very reason our Opera Western Reserve Opera company exists. It was his vision with his gifts and years of being its producer, stage director, designer, lighting designer and working with the community, that made it all happen.”

The fact that OWR is producing “Carmen” this year is particularly meaningful to Wyner, who will again lead the orchestra.

“Opera Western Reserve was born in 2004, after he saw me conduct a semi-staged ‘Carmen’ with the Warren Philharmonic,” Wyner explains. “He called me a few weeks later to ask if I would form an opera company with him. My answer was yes!”

Wyner, who was also an opera singer in her younger years, is the music director of the Warren Philharmonic Orchestra. She also lives in Massachusetts.

Wyner knew Vosburgh wasn’t in good health when she last spoke with him. “He went the way that he wanted to go, in full command of his faculties, and doing the work that he loved,” she says. “He had been teaching opera classes at a local senior center.”

Before the start of “Carmen,” OWR artistic director Scott Skiba will commemorate Vosburgh in an address to the audience.

Skiba took the reins of OWR following Vosburgh’s retirement. He has been an excellent successor, Wyner says, pointing to his experience and talent as a performer and director, and his knowledge of the technical aspects of stage production.

Before taking over as artistic director, Skiba had worked with OWR several times.

 He sang principal roles in past OWR productions of “Figaro,” “Rigoletto” and “Carmen.”

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.