Laszlo Polgar, Hungarian bass, Zurich Opera member; at 63

Associated Press / September 20, 2010

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BUDAPEST — Laszlo Polgar, a Hungarian bass and member of the Zurich Opera, died yesterday. He was 63.

Mr. Polgar died in Zurich, said Judit Varkonyi, a Hungarian State Opera spokeswoman. The cause of death was not disclosed by the family.

His most famous role was probably that of Bluebeard in Bela Bartok’s “Bluebeard’s Castle,’’ for which Mr. Polgar won the Grammy Award for best opera recording in 1999 along with Jessye Norman, conductor Pierre Boulez, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Polgar’s versatility and deeply resonant voice allowed him to play many other major roles, including Rocco in Beethoven’s “Fidelio,’’ Sarastro in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,’’ Basilio in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville,’’ and Gurnemanz in Wagner’s “Parsifal.’’

Mr. Polgar had participated in the Budapest opera’s season-ending gala concert in June and his death was unexpected, Varkonyi said.

Mr. Polgar was born Jan. 1, 1947, in Somogyszentpal, southwest Hungary, and studied at the Hungarian Music Academy between 1967 and 1972.

He won several singing competitions, including the Dvorak in 1971, the Schumann in 1974, the Erkel in 1975, the Wolf in 1980, and the Pavarotti in Philadelphia in 1981. He became a member of the Hungarian State Opera in 1973.

Mr. Polgar received Hungary’s most prestigious cultural award, the Kossuth Prize, in 1990.

“I wanted to become an artist. I was always attracted by the stage,’’ he said in a 1997 interview.

He moved to Zurich in 1991, where he initially earned 20 times his Hungarian income.

“I do not expect the Hungarian Opera to compete with it,’’ Mr. Polgar told Hungarian newspaper Magyar Hirlap in 1994.

“What I expect is respect and affection. If I get these two, I happily go home and sing there.’’

During his career, Mr. Polgar performed on some of the world’s most prestigious stages, including Milan’s La Scala, the Vienna State Opera, and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires.

“The most important things for me in life are love and affection,’’ Mr. Polgar said. “I try to fight against it, but without much avail. Without love and affection this profession is impossible for me.’’

Mr. Polgar leaves his wife, Agnes, and daughters Katalin, Judit, and Eva.