The Japanese-American countertenor Brian Asawa has died, aged 49.
Asawa first became drawn to early music during his studies at UCLA, and in 1991, aged 25, became the first countertenor to win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Three years later he also became the first countertenor to win Plácido Domingo’s Operalia International Opera Competition. Debuts in music by Gluck, Handel and Britten soon followed over a successful decade which saw him take on many of the leading repertoire roles for his voice. Contemporary works for countertenor premiered by Asawa included music by Jake Heggie.
Asawa’s recordings reflect that spread of repertoire, including Oberon in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (on Decca, conducted by Sir Colin Davis - Alan Blyth describing his voice as ‘luscious, vibrant’) and solo discs including songs by Ned Rorem and a disc of lute music (both for RCA). Of a disc of Scarlatti Cantatas conducted by Nicholas McGegan (DHM), Stanley Sadie praised Asawa’s ‘clear, ringing countertenor…a real feeling for Italian words and their place as part of the music and a welcome precision over detail’. More recently, Asawa launched a management company for singers and directors.