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From York to La Scala

Leonardo (Lee) Wolovsky was a well-known bass-baritone opera star, acclaimed in this country, and even more so in Europe, where he lived and worked for many years, appearing with the likes of Maria Callas and gracing the stage of many of the famous opera houses, including La Scala in Milan. He is another example of all those roads leading back to York.

Wolovsky was born in York in August 1923, the son of William and Rose Wolovsky. The family lived first at 501 W. King Street, then 612 Madison Avenue. Lee graduated in 1940 from William Penn High School and attended Oberlin College. After serving in the U.S. Army, he studied music in Italy. He eventually took up residence in Florence, where he passed away in May 2008.

Lee did come back to this country, not only to visit friends and family, but also to perform. In 1949, not yet 26, he returned to sing Bach’s Mass in B Minor with the Boston Symphony in March and the same work at Carnegie Hall in April. According to newspaper clippings at the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, the 40-year-old performed at the San Francisco Opera in October, 1963, singing the role of Wotan in Wagner’s Die Walkure.

He spent most of his time from 1953 to 1976 as a member of the companies of the premier opera houses of West Germany and also giving guest performances in other European capitals. He retired in 1976, but returned to the stage at La Scala in Zauberflote in 1984, signing leads in various operas throughout Europe into the 1990s.

Miss Mary Porter, his former English teacher at William Penn is quoted in a 1963 York newspaper article as saying “Everyone thought Lee had a good enough voice to go places.” He certainly did.

Click here for more on Wolovsky and the roles he performed.

Click here to find our about a famous opera that started with a Hanover writer’s story.