Philip Gossett (1941–2017)

June 19, 2017
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The world of music and opera lost one of its great champions last week with the death of Philip Gossett. It would be hard to overstate Gossett’s contribution to our understanding and experience of opera, particularly of the works of Verdi and Rossini. As the New York Times noted in their obituary, Gossett “was a pioneer in the creation of scholarly critical editions of opera scores,” and he used the knowledge he gleaned from archives and manuscripts not merely in the scholarly world, but also in the realm of performance, working with opera companies, conductors, and singers to bring the most accurate and authentic versions of both familiar and long-forgotten works to audiences around the world. In the Times, Ricardo Muti called Gossett “a blessing for the conductors that wanted, really, to bring back a certain dignity to the scores, to bring back the original ideas of the composers.” In recognition of his service to Italian opera, the Italian government awarded him the Cavaliere di Gran Croce, their highest civilian honor.

At the University of Chicago, Gossett served as the Robert W. Reneker Distinguished Service Professor of Music and also as Dean of  Humanities. The University of Chicago Press is proud to have partnered with him both in his role as general editor of the critical edition of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi and as the author of Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, which the New York Times called “as authoritative an examination of the era as we are likely to get.”

Sometimes the death of a scholar means their work is relegated to libraries and archives, seen only by subsequent generations of academics. Philip Gossett’s work will suffer no such fate: so long as the works of Verdi and Rossini are performed, audiences worldwide will enjoy the fruits of his life’s labors.

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