Herb Beattie’s voice was lauded around the globe.
The Colorado Springs opera singer, music educator, composer and popular voice-over talent died Sunday. He was 93. He’s survived by his wife, Laurie, and five children. A memorial service is planned for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 28 at First Christian Church, 16 E. Platte Ave.
Beattie’s deep bass voice was a golden ticket. It paved the way to an impressive career that saw him work alongside some of the greatest classical musicians of the 20th century, including Pablo Casals, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein and Beverly Sills.
“He was a great friend, a great storyteller who could break into song — anything from Bach to Rodgers and Hammerstein — at the drop of a hat,” said David Mason, an English professor at Colorado College. “One year he sat in on a course I was teaching on the poet W.H. Auden. The students fell in love with his enthusiasm for poetry, and when the course ended it was hugs all around.”
The Chicago-born Beattie made his debut at the New York City Opera in 1957 as Baron Douphol in Verdi’s “La traviata” alongside famed opera singer Sills and continued as the opera’s leading bass singer for more than 20 years. He went on to perform with San Francisco Opera, Central City Opera, Opera Company of Boston, New Orleans Opera and many others over the following decades. In concert, Beattie performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and others, and also as a soloist at Carnegie Hall.
“The incomparable Herbert Beattie ... his bottom tones cut through the night air like a bassoon. Not only does (Beattie) sing beautifully ... but mugs to perfection. And with taste,” wrote a critic in the San Francisco Examiner.
During that time, Beattie, a Colorado College graduate, also taught music at Hofstra University on Long Island, before he retired and moved back to Colorado Springs full time in 1980. He’d been spending summers here since founding the Colorado Opera Festival in 1970 with Donald Jenkins and Gilbert Johns. He directed and sang for the annual festival until 2000, when financial woes felled the organization.
“It (performing) was life and death for him,” said Jenkins. “He had to be right. He worried about every note. He was a perfectionist. His characterization was so amusing, human, tragic. He was a world-class performer.”
Voice-overs for Graham Advertising (now Graham Oleson) became a second career late in Beattie’s life. His remarkable voice earned him the title “Voice of God,” as well as clients around the country clamoring for him to lend his deep bass to their car commercials.
“I fell in love with his voice, and then I fell in love with his acting ability,” said Laurie, who met him during a Colorado Opera Festival in 1973 and married him in 1975. “When I was in college, none of our opera singers could act their way out of a paper bag. He could have had a professional career in Hollywood as an actor. Next I fell in love with his sense of humor, which was incredible.”
Contact the writer: 636-0270