Bringing Opera to Life: Remembering Bob Bass

Today we take a moment to honor the immense contributions and joyous life of Robert Bass, who led The Collegiate Chorale (now MasterVoices) from 1980 to 2008. For those of you who knew him, it may be hard to believe that today marks the ten-year anniversary of his passing.

In spirit and in action, Bob transformed us as an institution and as a chorus. Beginning with us when he was just 26, his legacy grew to include our long association with Roger Rees, the launch of our Side-By-Side Program (now in its 15th year), our many trips to Verbier and Israel, and the setting of our sights well beyond choral music.

But perhaps above all, his greatest contribution was to make opera a mainstay of the MasterVoices repertoire. The Operas-in-Concert Series, which he launched in 1998 with Verdi’s Nabucco, continues to this day – now under the artistic direction of Maestro Ted Sperling.

If you are new to the MasterVoices family, we hope you find some delight in learning about our history. And if you are an old friend, we hope you find some warmth and happiness in remembering…


MasterVoices has performed 32 operas since 1942
including 10 US and NY premieres and 3 developmental workshops. 

How many have you sung?


Boris Godunov (Mussorgsky) Alceste (Gluck)
Montezuma (Sessions) The Grapes of Wrath (Gordon)
Porgy and Bess (Gershwin) Moïse et Pharaon (Rossini)
Dmitri (Dvořák) Beatrice di Tenda (Bellini)
Fidelio (Beethoven) Mefistofele (Boito)
La fiamma (Respighi) The Mikado (Sullivan)
Friedenstag (Strauss) Song of Norway (Grieg)
Fierrabras (Schubert) JFK (Little)
Nabucco (Verdi) The Pirates of Penzance (Sullivan)
Giovanna d’Arco (Verdi) 27 (Gordon)
La Gioconda (Ponchielli) Dido and Aeneas (Purcell)
Macbeth (Verdi) The Halloween Tree (Popov)
Oberon (Weber) The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing (Chen)
La forza del destino (Verdi) Orfeo ed Euridice (Gluck)
Un ballo in maschera (Verdi) The Orphic Moment (Aucoin)
Le Villi (Puccini)
The Maid of Orleans (Tchaikovsky)
Jupiter in Argos (Handel)

(Some of) the Stars in our Midst

Martina Arroyo • Betty Allen • Kathleen Battle • Harolyn Blackwell • Stephanie Blythe • Victoria Clark • Anthony Roth Costanzo • Eric Cutler • Renée Fleming • Elizabeth Futral • Marcello Giordani • Nathan Gunn • Thomas Hampson • Dmitri Hvorostovsky • Kyle Ketelsen • Salvatore Licitra • James Morris • Angela Meade• Kelli O’Hara • Anne Sofie von Otter • Eric Owens • René Pape • Luciano Pavarotti • Ewa Podles • Thomas Quasthoff • Marina Rebeka • Paulo Szot • Bryn Terfel • Ramón Vargas • Deborah Voigt • Dolora Zajick

In 2008, Maestro Bass revealed to Opera News a handful of the recordings that moved him like none other. We’ve collected them in full and created a playlist for your listening enjoyment – you can actually hear him speak about each of these selections by clicking here!

Listen on Spotify!

Mira, o Norma
Artists: Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne
from Norma 
(Richard Bonynge and The London Symphony Orchestra)Soave Sia Il Vento
Artists: Kiri Te Kanawa, Ann Murray, Ferruccio Furlanetto
from Così Fan Tutte 
(James Levine and the Wiener Philharmoniker)

Artists: Barbara Frittoli, Dolora Zajick, Marcello Giordani, René Pape, The Collegiate Chorale
from Verdi’s Requiem
(James Levine and the Verbier Festival Orchestra)
Click here to download “Sanctus”

Artist: Marian Anderson
from SpiritualsTacea la notte placida

Artists: Leontyne Price
from Il Trovatore
Arturo Basile and the
Rome Opera Orchestra)The Immolation Scene
Artists: Birgit Nilsson
from Gotterdämmerung 
(George Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra)

Carrying on the Tradition

Artistic Director, Ted Sperling

“One of the things I admire most about Bob is the way he opened up the repertoire and took chances on works that were little-known to New York audiences. He expanded Shaw’s tradition of eclectic concert programs by launching an intrepid exploration of genre that extended over an entire season.

My personal vision is very much aligned with this. We are at work on several new operas with exciting partners and collaborators, and we are also dreaming up some innovative new productions that will imbue historic works with a renewed feeling of relevance.

Stay tuned!”

A Remembrance in Words

We asked long-time members of the MasterVoices community
to give us three words that reminded them of Bob.
Here is what they told us…

Honor the Legacy
Help Opera live on MasterVoices