Legendary Australian opera singer Donald Shanks dies of heart attack

The operatic community in Australia and abroad is mourning the loss of bass-baritone Don Shanks, who passed away on Friday.

Brisbane-born bass-baritone Donald Shanks (1940-2011) was an Opera Australia stalwart who joined the company in 1964 at the age of 23. He gave his first and last performances in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, taking his final bow in 2004 - forty years after his debut.

Shanks sang with Dame Joan Sutherland in Lucia di Lammermoor, Il trovatore and Norma, and with Pavarotti in La bohème. He also performed regularly with the Victoria State Opera and the Lyric Opera of Queensland, and internationally at Covent Garden and the Paris Opera.

Appearing in more than 65 principal roles, he specialised in comic characters such as Don Pasquale and Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro. He was also a seasoned Wagnerian with bass roles in Tannhäuser, Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde.

Opera Australia chief executive Adrian Collette said today, “Don was one of the greats. Voices like his come along very rarely; and he had such a handsome bearing and an utter commitment to the stage to go with it.

“He was also hugely versatile, performing roles from Boris Godunov to the Mikado. Donald will be missed by appreciative colleagues and an admiring audience.”

OA Board member and former singer Anson Austin said, “an essential pillar of our Company for forty years, Donald possessed a magnificent bass voice which could have regularly graced the world stage had he chosen to pursue such a career path. That he chose to remain loyal to Opera Australia and Australian audiences was our great good fortune.”

Opera Australia will dedicate the Melbourne opening night performance of La bohème on Tuesday April 12 to the memory of Donald Shanks. He is survived by his wife Pam and their children Murray and Jonathan. A memorial service will be held at St Andrews Anglican Church at Roseville this week.

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Legendary Australian opera singer Donald Shanks dies of heart attack
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