Published July 3, 2014
Gary Burgess, celebrated Bermudian singer and stage director who founded UB’s opera workshop while serving on the faculty of the Department of Music, died June 27 in Bermuda. He was 76.
Burgess, who also founded the Greater Buffalo Opera Company, maintained a distinguished career in opera as a soloist, director, educator and conductor. He worked with opera companies throughout North America and Europe, including the New York Philharmonic, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Greek National Orchestra and Bermuda’s Gilbert and Sullivan Orchestra, and performed alongside such opera stars as Luciano Pavarotti.
Burgess made his American debut as a tenor with the San Francisco Opera Company in 1973, and his European debut that same year with the Greek National Opera.
He joined the UB music faculty in 1975, serving as professor of voice and opera, conducting and staging more than 60 productions, and teaching numerous students during his 23 years at the university. Among those he coached were internationally renowned sopranos Renee Fleming and Laura Aikin, and Nickel City Opera founder Valerian Ruminski.
After retiring from UB in 1998, he returned to his native Bermuda, where he worked for the Cultural Affairs Department for six years before retiring from that position.
During the same period, he founded and directed the Boys Choir at the Anglican Cathedral and served as musical director for the Bermuda Philharmonic Orchestra from 1999 to 2006.
While working with the Bermuda Philharmonic, he wrote and premiered two symphonies: “Dawn of a New Day” and “The Bermuda Symphony,” based on the discovery of Bermuda.
Burgess was the recipient of numerous honors, including the Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award from the UB undergraduate Student Association, the National Opera Association’s Legacy Award, the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour, and recognition by OPERA America for his service in the field of opera.