In Memoriam: Prof. Clara O’Brien

Posted on January 02, 2024

Clara O'Brien

Clara O’Brien, Professor of Voice, passed away unexpectedly on Monday evening, December 18, 2023. Professor O’Brien was a member of the UNCG School of Music faculty for the past fifteen years.

Professor O’Brien’s international career began when she was awarded the Sonderpreis des Badischen Staatstheaters—a prize created especially for her at the 1stInternational Coloratura Competition, Sylvia Geszty in Stuttgart, Germany. She appeared on such European stages as Berlin, Luxembourg, Strasbourg, Dresden, Leipzig and Frankfurt, and domestically in Chicago and Dallas. For many years, she was engaged as soloist at the State Theater of Baden and based her career from Germany. Her operatic performances received Opernwelt’s Best Performance citations in both the Emerging and Established Artist categories. Other awards include 1st Prize, Erika Köth Meisterkurs and Finalist at the International Belvedere Competition.

She also won the Grand Prix Paul Derenne, International Concours de chant de Paris for her interpretation of Impressionist and post-Impressionist mélodie. She was also a noted interpreter of late-Romantic and Modernist German Lieder. Her recital repertoire ranged from medieval chanson to premieres from living composers. Recordings include releases on the Bella Musica and Albany Records labels, and her performances were broadcast on Southwest German Radio and Television and NPR radio. Her most recent recording was of Othmar Schoeck’s Das stille Leuchten with UNCG Professor of Collaborative Piano James Douglass (Ablaze Records 2021).

Professor O’Brien held degrees from the Eastman School of Music (MM and Performer’s Certificate) and Youngstown State University’s Dana School of Music (BM, summa cum laude) and completed her stage training at the Curtis Institute of Music. Her apprenticeship programs included Lyric Opera Center for American Artists and the Aspen Music Festival. She was a Fulbright Scholar and was awarded a fellowship to the Münchener Singschul. She also taught at the American Institute for Musical Studies in Graz, Austria and presented masterclasses throughout the United States.

A funeral will take place on Saturday, January 13 at 2:00 pm at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greensboro (607 N Greene St). An event at the School of Music to remember Professor O’Brien is being planned. Further details will be announced soon.

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