L.A. Opera COO Edgar Baitzel dies at 51


Edgar Baitzel, who was wooed to the Los Angeles Opera six years ago by Placido Domingo and led the company to financial success as chief operating officer, has died. He was 51.

Baitzel died of cancer Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, opera company general directors Domingo and Eli and Edythe Broad announced Monday.

"I've known him for over 30 years, and I always appreciated his knowledge, culture and preparation," Domingo said.

It was Domingo, who had worked with Baitzel in Bonn, who lured Baitzel to Los Angeles in 2001 as L.A. Opera director of operations. In 2003, Baitzel became artistic director and in 2006 he was appointed chief operating officer.

"When I was offered the position here, I immediately knew he was the right person to be a great help to me. We have been really very happily working together," Domingo said.

During his six-year tenure, the Los Angeles Opera went from 66 scheduled performances in the 2001-02 season to the current 77.

Baitzel presided over the creation of four to five new productions in each of those seasons, including the world premieres of Puccini's "Turandot" with a new ending by Luciano Berio in 2002, Deborah Drattell's "Nicholas and Alexandra" in 2003 and Elliot Goldenthal's "Grendel" in 2006.

Baitzel also helped bring collaborations with Hollywood and Broadway directors including Maximilian Schell, Julie Taymor, William Friedkin, Garry Marshall and Vincent Patterson.

Born in Koblenz, Germany, Baitzel studied musicology, literature and art history at Frankfurt's Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University. He later worked as an assistant under directors Gotz Friedrich and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

He served as assistant manager of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich from 1978 to 1982, then was promoted to head dramaturge overseeing productions of the complete works of Richard Wagner in 1983 and Richard Strauss in 1984.

He also served as assistant general manager and artistic director at the Karlsruhe Opera in Germany, was artistic director of the Bonn Opera and was artistic consultant for the Opera de Nice in France.

He is survived by his wife Christina and three children, Sarah, 23, Philipp, 21, and Sophia, 4, all of Los Angeles. A private funeral was planned and the Los Angeles Opera planned an April memorial.