Armstrong Park Honors Acclaimed Opera Singer Norman Treigle

The plaza outside of the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts will now be known as Treigle Plaza.

Norman Treigle, who was born in New Orleans on March 6, 1927 and passed away February 16, 1975, was a bass-baritone who electrified audiences at the New York City Opera with his portrayal of Mefistofele in Arrigo Boito’s opera of the same name.

Treigle appeared at opening night for the theater in 1973, with a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Messa di Requiem, which he performed with the New Orleans Symphony.

Norman Treigle as Mefistofele

Norman Treigle as Mefistofele

Treigle attended Loyola University of the South’s College of Music, while performing various roles with the local opera company. In 1953, Treigle made his New York City Opera debut, as Colline in Puccini’s La Bohème. Three years later, the bass-baritone scored his first significant success, as the tormented Reverend Olin Blitch, in the New York premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. He made his European debut in this same opera, at the Brussels World’s Fair, in 1958.

I can recall Treigle’s 1969 performance of Boito’s Mefistofele at the New York City Opera like it was yesterday. I was awestricken by the production and performance. I traveled home on the subway in a daze trying to comprehend what I just witnessed. This was a performance and a production like no other I’d ever seen. I was hooked for life — a passion for opera that I maintain until this very day. I had to see it again, and more importantly, I had to pass on to others the sense that I had witnessed something transcendent. I eventually returned with family and friends for three additional performances, making Treigle’s Mefistofele my most frequently seen opera.

Treigle made his long anticipated debut at Covent Garden in December 1974 as another Mefistofele, this one in Charles Gounod’s opera Faust. But the reviews of this production were dismal. A quiet and sensitive man, Treigle was devastated.

Two months later he passed away in New Orleans of an apparent overdose of sleeping pills.

He was only 48 years old..

I will never forget this wonderful singer and his performance will always be the highlight of my musical life.

The City Council ordinance dedicating Treigle Plaza was sponsored by City Councilmember at-large Jackie Clarkson, and District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, whose district includes the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

  • greenbox

    While I share your admiration of Norman Treigle and have many fond memories of my own, I must point out a serious error in your article. The unfavorable reviews of the London FAUST occurred in December 1974. Mr. Treigle died in New Orleans on February 16, 1975. The coroner’s report gave the cause of death as a ruptured ulcer.

    • Thanks for the input. We’ve adjusted the date of Treigle’s death above.