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Originally published December 21, 2009 at 7:38 PM | Page modified December 24, 2009 at 10:24 AM

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Obituary

Opera enthusiast Perry Lorenzo, of Seattle, dies at 51

Perry Lorenzo, 51, an opera enthusiast who was education director for Seattle Opera, died Saturday after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Perry Lorenzo was an opera evangelist.

"Perry was completely dedicated to opera," said Speight Jenkins, director of the Seattle Opera, who hired Mr. Lorenzo as education director 17 years ago. "He was a speaker who could affect and connect with absolutely anyone."

Mr. Lorenzo, 51, died Saturday (Dec. 19) after a seven-month battle with lung cancer.

Born in Oakland, Mr. Lorenzo grew up in Bellingham and attended Gonzaga University. He spent time in a seminary but eventually decided to teach, and for 10 years he taught at Kennedy High School in Burien.

Mr. Lorenzo's passion for opera dated to his childhood, after he discovered J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings."

"Someone suggested I might like Wagner's 'Ring' as well," Mr. Lorenzo once told an interviewer. "The library had recordings. I immersed myself in the [Sir Georg] Solti recording of the 'Ring.' It was one of the most important turning points of my childhood."

But it wasn't until high school that Mr. Lorenzo got to see a "Ring" opera — in a Seattle performance of "Götterdämmerung" (the last and longest of the four-opera series).

Jenkins hired Mr. Lorenzo as education director for Seattle Opera in 1992. Mr. Lorenzo gave lectures on Wagner and other topics not just in Seattle but in Germany, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

A devout Catholic, Mr. Lorenzo did volunteer teaching at his church, St. James Cathedral.

Paul Hearn of Seattle, Mr. Lorenzo's longtime companion, said they met when Mr. Lorenzo gave a lecture at the University of Washington 13 years ago. Though Hearn was not Catholic, their first date was to St. James, he said.

Hearn said Mr. Lorenzo brought him to the Catholic Church and broadened his appreciation of opera.

The two would pray together and do morning liturgies. "We were monks in love," he said.

The Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan, pastor at St. James Cathedral, said Mr. Lorenzo was immensely intelligent.

"He was a born teacher and a perpetual student who never stopped learning," he said. "He was the quintessential renaissance man. He had a passion for beauty and a passion about his Catholic faith. As much as he loved opera, it was his faith where all this came together and made sense."

Kelly Tweeddale, executive director of Seattle Opera, said Mr. Lorenzo "had an intellectually amazing breadth and was able to tie the philosophical world with the historical world. He really made whatever topic he was talking about incredibly alive and relevant to people."

In addition to Hearn, Mr. Lorenzo is survived by his father, Robert Lorenzo, of Bellingham.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Dec. 30 at St. James Cathedral.

Friends and family ask that remembrances in Mr. Lorenzo's name be sent to Seattle Opera's Perry Lorenzo Fund for In-School Education, Seattle Opera, P.O. Box 9248, Seattle, WA 98109-0248, or to St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104.

Information from Seattle Times archives was used in this report.

Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or sgilmore@seattletimes.com

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