David DiChiera, Detroit’s remarkable civic leader, cultural impresario and composer was laid to rest Friday, Sept. 21. But his influence lives on in the city he loved.
With the passing of David DiChiera, we lost a giant and a genius. As the founder of Michigan Opera Theatre, David might have been Detroit’s most important cultural leader in the past 50 years.
Opera hardly had a presence in Detroit – after the Metropolitan Opera stopped its annual visit. Then David stepped in. First under his Overture to Opera then Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT), opera became one of the most vibrant and celebrated art forms in the city.
His influence and genius did not stop there.
When few people were placing bets on downtown Detroit, David took a dilapidated movie house and turned it into the majestic Detroit Opera House.
He built collaborations with other opera companies to create touring shows that delighted audiences in Detroit and many other cities.
At a time that opera was considered a very white art form, David became an internationally recognized champion of diversity, who nurtured and advanced the careers of operatic artists – composers and vocalists – of all hues, even commissioning African-American productions like “Margaret Garner” based on Toni Morrison’s “Beloved.”
He was also an accomplished and respected composer, whose full-length opera, “Cyrano,” debuted in 2007 at his beloved Detroit Opera House.
It is difficult to choose the word that describes David best – visionary, leader, miracle-worker, entrepreneur, legend. You could check every box.
But perhaps how he may be best remembered – by anyone who had the privilege to meet him – is by his humanity. There was an aura of kindness, warmth and generosity that surrounded the man and that touched everyone in his vicinity and beyond.
Please, as you visit downtown Detroit and see its glistening cultural facilities, recall that this man, David DiChiera, helped build the foundation on which each of them stands.
David and his team at the Michigan Opera Theatre have been great partners with Detroit Public TV over the years. They have generously allowed us to share the live-stream of the funeral on the DPTV website.
Of course, I also urge you to visit the MOT’s own web pages dedicated to honoring its founder, where you will also find the live-stream of the funeral as well as a touching remembrance of David DiChiera.
Read through the messages on its “In Loving Memory” page, and you will understand the true measure of the man, as everyone from a global celebrity like Kathleen Battle to a balcony opera lover expresses what he meant to their lives.
We were all richer for his being among us. He will be missed.