Erin Wall, a veteran Lyric Opera and CSO soprano, dies at 44

  • Soprano Erin Wall, 44, died Thursday. Wall was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center and went on to star in leading roles.

    Soprano Erin Wall, 44, died Thursday. Wall was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center and went on to star in leading roles. Courtesy of Kristin Hoebermann

  • Soprano Erin Wall was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center. She would go on to star in leading roles like Fiordiligi in a 2007 Lyric revival of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutti."

    Soprano Erin Wall was a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center. She would go on to star in leading roles like Fiordiligi in a 2007 Lyric revival of Mozart's "Cosi fan tutti." Courtesy of Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago

  • Soprano Erin Wall portrayed Freia, right, opposite Russian mezzo-soprano Larissa Diadkova as Fricka in a 2004 Lyric Opera of Chicago revival of Wagner's "Das Rheingold." Wall, 44, died Thursday after a long illness.

    Soprano Erin Wall portrayed Freia, right, opposite Russian mezzo-soprano Larissa Diadkova as Fricka in a 2004 Lyric Opera of Chicago revival of Wagner's "Das Rheingold." Wall, 44, died Thursday after a long illness. Courtesy of Dan Rest/Lyric Opera of Chicago.

 
 
Updated 10/15/2020 11:21 AM

Erin Wall, one of the world's leading opera sopranos, died Thursday from complications of metastatic breast cancer. She was 44.

Wall was born in Calgary, Canada, to American parents, and she maintained dual citizenship through her life. Her singing career received a jump-start in 2001 when she was chosen to be a member of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's Ryan Opera Center, a professional artist-development program.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Wall also made her Chicago Symphony Orchestra debut that year singing Mozart and Lehár selections for a New Year's Eve concert.

Wall had a breakout "understudy going on for the star" moment in 2004 for a new Lyric staging of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." She stepped in at the last minute as Donna Anna for an indisposed Karita Mattila for the gala opening night marking the start of the Lyric's 50th-anniversary season.

Wall would go on to perform with the world's leading opera companies and symphony orchestras in North America, Europe and Asia. Yet Wall also maintained strong ties to Chicago throughout her career.

Wall's two appearances with the Chicago Symphony at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park were both performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony -- first in 2005 with conductor Christoph Eschenbach, and then in 2009 with conductor James Conlon.

Wall performed 13 roles at Lyric, including Pamina in Mozart's "The Magic Flute," Helena in Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Antonia in Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffmann."

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In early 2018, Wall was set to return to the role of Marguerite in a new Lyric production of Gounod's "Faust." But Wall had to drop out to undergo chemotherapy treatments when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer at the age of 42.

Wall was open about dealing with cancer, extensively writing about her experiences in a February 2019 blog post when she was appearing in "Elektra" for the Canadian Opera Company. Wall candidly shared photos of herself with and without wigs, and she even posted a photo after completing the 2018 New York Marathon.

Two of Wall's final Chicago performances were at the end of 2018. In October and November, Wall starred as Princess Elettra in a Lyric revival of Mozart's "Idomeneo." Wall then performed the "Four Last Songs" -- a farewell to life by composer Richard Strauss -- with the Chicago Symphony in December.

"All of us at Lyric Opera of Chicago are heartbroken at the news of Erin Wall's death," Lyric general director Anthony Freud said in a statement. "All of us were inspired by her artistry, her spirit and her commitment to the art form and her colleagues. She will be very, very missed."

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