The American operatic tenor Jerry Hadley died on July 17, 2007, just 7 days after shooting himself with an air rifle. On family orders he was removed from life support on the 16th.
The loss still hurts. Reportedly, Hadley had mounting issues with alcohol and depression. They took a toll on his voice. As the stories have it, in his good moments he recognized that even with a reduced vocal capacity, there was still a repertoire for him and a life with his family.
In his bad moments he abandoned all hope because he’d entered the place of Despair.
He was supposed to have been one of the funniest men in the music business, a huge practical joker. Did he regard what was happening to him as a sick practical joke? Did this allegedly believing Catholic also believe in God the Trickster? I don’t know.
I believe the poor man just lost his mind.
YouTube is a dangerous place to go. First Dawn Upshaw, Hadley’s frequent collaborator, running a master class for young singers. Then Upshaw in The Rake’s Progress cradling the dying Tom Rakewell, played by Hadley…a good place to lose it right there and I had to turn it off. Finally the magnificent Isabel Bayrakdarian singing–no, performing–the 2nd movement of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, from inside the death camp at Auschwitz. If you can watch the progression of “therapy via YouTube” without breaking down you really need to have your nervous system checked to insure you’re not dead.
In any case, there is still Hadley. A death that came so far too soon. A death I still would like to believe could have been prevented if anyone closest to him had tried to intervene. Or may they did and there was nothing to reverse the motion. The British critic Alfred Alvarez wrote about the “closed world of suicide,” that once entered, has no exit except the attempt itself. So let Jerry Hadley rest, free finally of the demons that had torn into him.
Hadley haunts any of us who had had problems with alcohol and/or depression. He unleashes the hungry ghost that wants us all as it took him. The sadness lingers because people live who have touched the same fire that Jerry Hadley touched to his ruin. He is a source of both beauty and dread.
Let him be at peace. But let us not forget the terrible cost.