James Atherton, a Metropolitan Opera tenor died of an AIDS-related illness last Friday. According to his manager, Dorothy Cone. He was 44 years old and lived in St. Louis, where he served as artistic director of the opera studio at the St. Louis Conservatory.
Mr. Atherton, a native of Montgomery, Ala., was trained at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. After early engagements with the Santa Fe Opera, he made his Metropolitan debut as the Simpleton in Mussorgsky’s ”Boris Godunov” in 1977, and returned often, amassing a repertory of 17 roles with the company. He specialized in roles that required attractive singing from the secondary tenor, such as Beppe in ”Pagliacci” and Jacquino in ”Fidelio.”
In recent years Mr. Atherton had broadened his activities to include stage direction. At the time of his death he was preparing for a production of Handel’s ”Rinaldo” for the Handel Festival of the Kennedy Center.
Mr. Atherton is survived by his mother, Mrs. James P. Atherton of Montgomery, and a sister, Anne Atherton Randolph of Denver.