The validity of life and the human voice: a response to the suicide of soprano, Roxana Briban

Last night, late, I received news that the Romanian sopano, Roxana Briban (39) had committed suicide in her home; her husband finding her in her bathtub with slit wrists.  Immediately, I felt my stomach sink, especially since I had heard her live years ago in Vienna while reviewing what was a bit of a shambled production of Verdi’s Traviata. At the time, and still, I felt that Briban had a world-class instrument but that there were problems of unevenness and the propensity to sing repertoire that was much too large for this lovely ladies true voice.  I raise this point, in lieu of these horrific events, to draw attention to the apparent reason why her suicide occurred:  She had been let go at the Bucharest Opera House because she had refused to sever engagements at the Vienna Staatsoper.  At least, this is the story.  Her husband has stated that Ms. Briban because depressed and that her lack of engagements led to her ending her own life.

Personally, I am deeply saddened by this story and even more saddened by the fact that Ms. Briban posted a bloodied hand as her profile picture on Facebook prior to committing the act.  Did the people around her not see signs of this impending act? Reports mention that she repeatedly told her husband she wanted to “die.” Briban was 39 years old and if this serves as anything for singers who remain devoted to their art, it is as a reminder, how much power the human voice has over the validity of life.  Many singers who have had extraordinary careers draw into the curtains and into solitude at the ends of their careers.  We don’t see them much, except for in public events where their presence reminds us of excellence past.  But, what is this power that the human voice has on its beholder?


Ms. Briban was young, vibrant, lovely, and yet tortured because she felt she would be “forgotten.”  What is tragic about this is that she will now be remembered more as the young soprano who committed suicide for the sake of her career, than she will be for the countless performances in which she gave of herself.  She was extremely musical, but people won’t remember this now…they will only remember the bloodied hand and the suicide.


A legacy is what remains of someone’s contribution to a genre.  In opera, those who leave such a legacy are becoming rarer and I feel that this has much to do with a distinct change in singing style and attention to authenticity.  Ms. Briban was a bi-product of this generation of singers who had the potential to be great, but had not achieved what they wished due to a lack of ability, usually technically.  But, that is not to say that one can’t take the time to re-train, regroup, re-organize themselves and return to what gives their life meaning.  This death was unnecessary and although I have my own personal opinion about it, I call upon singers to take note and to reflect on these words.  You have been blessed with the gift of song, of voice…but when that voice runs out it is NOT the end of life.  Thereupon, find the ways to regroup and re-organize and the voice…resilient in all manners of speaking, will return to its authentic self.  Then, and only then, will it help the legacy continue, with validity, devotion, and vocation.


This week we reflect on the passing of this young, vibrant woman:


The Associated Press story on Briban’s death

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