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Opera and Musical Theater Star Jerome Hines Dies at 81

Jerome Hines as Mephistopheles
in Faust at the Metropolitan Opera
(Photo: Louis Mélançon)
Jerome Hines, a highly respected operatic bass who also had a career in musical theater, died yesterday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. He was 81.

A resident of Scotch Plains, New Jersey, Hines appeared frequently at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn in recent years. His last role with the company was Dr. Engel in a 2000 production of The Student Prince, in which he sang the poignant "Golden Days." Hines also starred at Paper Mill in Man of La Mancha on three separate occasions (in 1971, 1972, and 1983) and in South Pacific in 1974, opposite Betsy Palmer.

Known for his acting ability as well as for the beauty of his voice, Hines began his 41-year Metropolitan Opera career in 1946 with the role of the Officer in Boris Godunov; he later graduated to the part of Pimen in that same opera and then to the title role, which he said was his favorite. Other notable Hines characterizations at the Met included Mozart's Don Giovanni, Mephistopheles in Faust, Ramfis in Aida, Gremin in Eugene Onegin, Colline in La Bohème, and a number of Wagner roles. Hines had the lengthiest career of any principal singer in Met history, giving a total of 868 performances there. Outside of the U.S., he sang in such venues as Glyndebourne, La Scala, Bayreuth, and the Bolshoi.

Hines in The Student Prince
at the Paper Mill Playhouse
He was born Jerome Heinz in Hollywood on November 8, 1921. As a young man, he studied voice while also studying chemistry, math, and physics at the University of California. He worked as a chemist in his youth but, after making his operatic debut as Monterone in Rigoletto with the San Francisco Opera in 1941, he pursued singing on a full-time basis.

Hines's height of 6'6" and his athletic build helped him to be particularly effective in such roles as Mephistopheles. Ironically, this singer who had great success playing Satan became a born-again Christian in the mid-1950s and wrote an opera about the life of Jesus, titled "I Am the Way," which he performed at the Met and around the world. Among Hines's relatively few commercial recordings are a Beethoven Missa Solemnis conducted by Arturo Toscanini, and Verdi's Macbeth with Leonie Rysanek and Leonard Warren, conducted by Erich Leinsdorf.

Married to the soprano Lucia Evangelista from 1952 until her death in 2000, Hines is survived by four sons and eight grandchildren.