In Memoriam

We were deeply saddened to learn that bass-baritone Robert Samels, one of Wolf Trap Opera’s young artists for this summer season, died suddenly and tragically a few days ago. Robert was a doctoral candidate at Indiana University, and the School of Music has developed this website to honor Robert and the four other musicians who also lost their lives.

The depth and breadth of Robert’s musicianship were unusual for a young singer. His still-developing bass voice was capable of both lyrical beauty and sparkling comedy. In his audition for us last fall, he delivered a rendition of Basilio’s aria from The Barber of Seville that made us laugh out loud, tired and jaded as we were. He was also a composer, conductor, and a well-known radio personality on the Bloomington NPR station.

Robert was to have begun rehearsal with us in just 3 weeks. Over the last few months he corresponded with me about the peculiar challenges of Telemann’s Orpheus, in which he was to play Pluto. He participated in our discussion about Baroque pitch, sending emails full of the enthusiasm and attention to detail that he loved to lavish on his musical life.

Robert was a regular reader of this blog, and he was a thoughtful, impassioned, and vibrant participant in the cultural community. He was looking forward to sinking his teeth into Bartolo, and having followed our improvisational Instant Opera! project on the blog last summer, he was particularly excited about “doing improv in the woods.”

If you have a chance, please visit his website and the blog that the IU School of Music has set up in his memory. Our hearts go out to his family and friends.



Condolences to Mr. Samels’ family, friends, and to the Wolf Trap Opera staff and company members.


Thank you very much for your lovely post. I am a schoolmate of Robert and the other four young singers.

Having someone like you giving him a tribute is just all the more special.

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