“Godfather of Icelandic Opera,” Garðar Cortes, Passes Away

Opera singer, Garðar Emanúel Cortes

Garðar Cortes, sometimes referred to as “the godfather of Icelandic opera,” passed away Sunday at the age of 82. Among other accomplishments, Garðar was instrumental in promoting and strengthening opera culture in Iceland.

“A giant of the Icelandic music scene”

On Sunday, May 14, Icelandic opera singer and promoter of Icelandic music Garðar Emanúel Cortes passed away. He was 82 years old. Eulogised as, “a giant of the Icelandic music scene“ by RÚV, Garðar was instrumental in the founding of the Icelandic Opera in 1980 and served as director of the Opera between 1979 and 1999.

“The Icelandic Opera was officially founded on October 3, 1980, at the initiative of Garðar Cortes. The goal was to give singers the opportunity to work on their art and to make the opera art form accessible to Icelandic audiences,” as noted on the website of the Icelandic Opera.

Besides founding the Icelandic Opera, Garðar also founded the Reykjavík Singing School (Söngskóli Reykjavíkur) where he served as the school’s principal for many years. He worked for decades as an opera singer, teacher, choir director, and conductor, performing in Iceland and abroad.

Garðar received an honorary award at the Iceland Performing Arts Awards in 2017 for his contribution to Icelandic performing arts and music. Garðar leaves behind four children and nine grandchildren. He is survived by his wife Krystyna Maria Blasiak Cortes.