HOUSTON, TX (October 5, 2012)

William M. Weibel led a colorful life as an opera conductor culminating in a twelve-year tenure as Artistic Director at Opera in the Heights.  He passed away on October 1, 2012 after a long illness.

A native of Queens, New York, Bill was never in doubt about the avenue his future career would take. His talent and love for musical expression began at an early age.  He attended both the Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music in Manhattan where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in conducting and piano.  Upon graduation he was awarded a Fulbright scholarship from the US government for further study of opera and conducting in Italy. While there he acquired a wealth of valuable experience and knowledge as well as a beautiful young Italian model, Pasquina Scarpa, as his wife.

Bill’s professional life began at the Cincinnati Summer Opera which led to a job offer from the Metropolitan Opera. Maestro Weibel worked there on the musical staff of the world’s leading opera house for eleven years.  During these rich years, he served as assistant to Leonard Bernstein, Claudio Abbado, Sir Georg Solti, and many more.

He was Herbert von Karajan’s assistant for seven years at the Salzburg (Austria) Festival, and then Leonard Bernstein invited Maestro Weibel to serve as his assistant at the New York Philharmonic, and he did so for one year.

William M. Weibel coached and conducted some of the most illustrious singers of the 20th century including Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti (who was godfather to his two sons), and Renata Tebaldi. He conducted opera at international opera houses and in the United States.

In 1990 he moved his family to Sugar Land, which by this time included twin sons Walter and Louis.  After being retired briefly, he was lured back into the world of opera in 1998 by a small “start-up” opera company in the Houston Heights.  Opera in the Heights became Maestro Weibel’s new professional home; he shortly became its Artistic Director and held this position until 2010.

Longtime Opera in the Heights supporter James R. Bates said, “Bill took our small neighborhood opera and turned it into a world class regional opera company.  He brought us first class young talent by expanding our auditions to New York. He developed an orchestra designed to fit our venue.”

But his greatest passion and contribution was in the development of talented young singers. He mentored, coached, and encouraged them, and gave them the opportunity to sing lead roles at Opera in the Heights. The Facebook comments on his page today sum up his impact: Tenor T’au Pupu’a posted, “Thank you for my start, and for believing in me.” Soprano Lara Tillotson said, “I will always remember you, and every step I take down this path I will hear your voice telling me I can do it.”


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Laurie Hewett