We bid a fond farewell to Matt Comerford, our beloved Co-Assistant Principal Trumpet, who retired at the end of the 2019 season.
Matt grew up in Tekamah, Nebraska. Both his father and grandfather played the trumpet, so there was always a cornet or bugle nearby. “From the time I was four years old I wanted to play the trumpet just like them. I have wonderful memories of the three of us playing trios at family get-togethers.”
Prior to joining the Lyric Opera Orchestra in 1997, Matt had a substantial career in musical theater orchestras and subbed extensively with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, where he was fortunate to play 2nd trumpet to his teacher and inspiration, Adolph “Bud” Herseth, for two and a half years.
Matt also played backstage at Lyric for numerous operas, including Aida, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Turandot, Lohengrin, and Tannhäuser. He was featured in the onstage role of Servitore, the corner-playing sidekick to Dr. Dulcamaro in Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore, and in Carmen, pictured below.
Matt auditioned for former music director Bruno Bartoletti. “During the finals, while playing the prelude to Parsifal, Bruno came right up to my face and conducted. I thought, keep playing and stay cool.” Shortly after winning the job, Bruno stopped Matt in the hallway and told him, “You will have a long career with opera here”.
He described why he loved playing for Maestro Bartoletti. His first opera with Lyric was La Boheme with Bartoletti on the podium.
“I’ve never seen anyone do Puccini better. Bruno understood the pacing and emotion and conducted from his heart and soul. I worked a lot with Solti at the Chicago Symphony. He wasn’t necessarily clear with every beat but what he did meant something, much like Bruno. Bruno didn’t cue everything but he knew when to pay attention to the stage and when to pay attention to the orchestra. He didn’t let the singers control the flow of the music.”
Aida, 1983 Alceste, 1990
Matt has served the orchestra in multiple ways over his tenure at Lyric, including 15 years on the Orchestra Committee participating in six contract negotiations. One of the most notable was in 2006 when, after talks stalled over the summer, former White House Counsel Abner Mikva was brought in to mediate. Matt remembered Mikva saying “If you do the same work as the Chicago Symphony, you should be paid the same.” Mikva helped the committee press for a good agreement, and they got one.
Matt represented the orchestra as delegate at ICSOM (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians) for 15 years and served on the Governing Board for eight years.
He also served as Chair of the ICSOM Media Committee which helped negotiate two Integrated Media Agreements, consolidating the myriad terms of payment for musicians’ recorded work into one agreement.
Matt is looking forward to relaxing, hiking, and playing a lot of golf in Cathedral City, California. Will he be playing the trumpet? Matt says Palm Springs has an opera guild, so perhaps he’ll play.
We thank you for your beautiful playing and your many years of service to our orchestra. We will miss you.
Mefistofele, 1991. Trumpets in hell, amiright?