Carnegie Mellon University
February 04, 2020

Valéry Ryvkin, Vocal Coach and Conductor

By Dan Fernandez

Dan Fernandez
Pam Wigley

Valéry Ryvkin, an internationally renowned operatic conductor, vocal coach and member of the faculty at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, died on January 22, 2020 of a rare form of cancer.

Ryvkin was born and raised in St. Petersburg in the former Soviet Union, in a family of music-lovers. He began to study piano at age 7, and later studied at the Leningrad State Conservatory of Music before emigrating to the United States at age 18. He did his undergraduate study in piano and musicology at The Mannes College of Music before earning his master’s degree in collaborative piano at The Juilliard School, while also teaching at both Mannes and Juilliard.

In 1999, Ryvkin was appointed Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Opera Santa Barbara, which he led for 11 years. Under Ryvkin’s leadership, Opera Santa Barbara grew into a significant regional opera house. From 2005 to 2011 Ryvkin also led as Artistic Director of the Greensboro Opera in North Carolina and conducted major operatic works during this time, including La Traviata, The Magic Flute, Le Nozze di Figaro, Aida and Tosca.

 Called a “singer’s conductor” by Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, Ryvkin focused on the art of vocal coaching throughout his career. He worked collaboratively with singers to help prepare their voices and diction for roles at the Metropolitan Opera, LA Opera, San Francisco Opera and others, including major stars such as Renée Fleming and James Morris. Ryvkin also gave many recitals as a collaborative pianist, accompanying the primary performer while providing a high level of musicality and advanced technique to inform and elevate the entire performance.  

Though Ryvkin worked continuously as an artistic leader and private coach, he also was in frequent demand as a master clinician and director of musical festivals throughout the United States and Europe. He served at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance as Associate Professor of Voice and Opera, while also working as Artistic Director at the Temple Opera Theater. Ryvkin joined the faculty at the CMU School of Music in August 2019, where he coached vocal performance students and worked collaboratively with them on piano as a partner, both in rehearsal and performance.

Maestro Ryvkin was known for helping young performers to “find their voice,” and for his warm personality and rigorous dedication to honing the skills of a young performer in order to develop their talents and craft fine musical performances.

He is survived by his wife, Dr. Victoria Hart, daughter Amanda Ryvkin, and father Alexander Ryvkin.