Detroit opera impresario David DiChiera dead at 83

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Detroit opera impresario David DiChiera dead at 83
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The Michigan Opera Theatre announced its founder David DiChiera died on Tuesday night at his Detroit home following a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 83.

The opera impresario was known for founding the MOT in 1971 and later spearheading a multimillion-dollar transformation of the dilapidated Capitol Theater to create the Detroit Opera House in 1996 — moves that came long before downtown Detroit's more recent renaissance.

"There’s nothing that can be said about David that hasn’t already been said," the MOT says in a statement. "He was one-of-a-kind, a true leader and impresario, a writer, a creator, a visionary genius, a big-hearted, hard-working, dedicated lover and builder of opera and dance. David loved Detroit, and the role he played in its renaissance with the creation of the spectacular Detroit Opera House we call home is immeasurable. His vision and commitment were beyond extraordinary, and his love for this city and all its residents was boundless. But nothing besides his family was as important to him as Michigan Opera Theatre itself, and all of us who were fortunate enough to have known and worked with him will forever be in his debt."

When Metro Times met DiChiera for lunch in 2007, he spoke about his decidedly un-musical upbringing. Born in Pennsylvania, DiChiera's family saved money to purchase him a piano. He later earned a doctoral degree from UCLA, and moved to Michigan to join the faculty at Oakland University in the 1962. In 1971, he left the University to become artistic director at what is now known as Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.

"Remember, this was just four years after the riots," DiChiera told The Detroit Free Press. "The whole idea that we could have culture in the middle of the city was unthinkable to some people. I had friends who asked: 'Why are you going down there? Why aren’t you coming to Oakland County? To Bloomfield Hills?'"

In 2007, DiChiera premiered his opera Cyrano in Detroit, which told the story of an aristocrat with a misshapen nose who was able to win over his love with the power of his writing. "Inside Cyrano suffered terribly," DiChiera told us. "I think we all have something in our own psyche that keeps us from total self-fulfillment. I think that's what Cyrano is all about."

DiChiera saw his work to introduce a new generation to opera.

"We're in a different environment," he told us. "Young people have so many choices and opportunities for their entertainment. It's all about the experience. Sometimes we win that victory one person at a time."

A viewing for DiChiera begins at 11 a.m. with a funeral at 1 p.m. on Friday in the Detroit Opera House; 1526 Broadway, Detroit; 313-961-3500;; Both are open to the public.

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About The Author

Lee DeVito

Leyland "Lee" DeVito grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, where he read Metro Times religiously due to teenaged-induced boredom. He became a contributing writer for Metro Times in 2009, and Editor in Chief in 2016. In addition to writing, he also supplies occasional illustrations. His writing has been published...
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