Cover photo for Richard Warner Best's Obituary
Richard Warner Best Profile Photo
1935 Richard 2022

Richard Warner Best

April 22, 1935 — May 17, 2022

CARBONDALE - Richard Warner Best: pianist, organist, opera singer, professor of voice, born April 22, 1935 has died on Tuesday, May 17, 2022. He was 87 years old.

Although a native Chicagoan, he had resided in Carbondale since the fall of 1984.

His beloved parents, John Thomas and Edna Amelia Best (née Wintermeyer) preceded him in death. Richard leaves behind a dear sister, Janet Adele Anderson, brother-in-law, Bruce Anderson, and niece, Alyce Anderson. The canine companions in Richard's life are especially remembered: Hagen, Ochs, Mimi, Saxon, Winston, and Luke.

Originally trained as a pianist and organist, he realized the singing voice was his true calling. First as a boy soprano, then as a bass he entered competitions including winging awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Chicagoland Music Festival, and Newsweek Magazine's 'Rising Singer of the Year.' He was featured annually in 'Who's Who in Opera' and 'Who's Who in America.' He sang with numerous symphony orchestras including Chicago, Boston, and in New York.

As a principal artist he sang with the Santa Fe Opera, San Francisco Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, Paris Opera, Dresden Opera, Amsterdam Opera, and Graz Opera, among many others. His home opera company, where he sang as a principal soloist for a span of twenty years, was the Metropolitan Opera. There he sang twenty-nine roles in 555 performances. Richard was the first American to sing the role of Baron Ochs at the MET, Tokyo, Graz, and in the city of its 1911 premiere, Dresden. Richard was a co-founder of the 'Metropolitan Opera Madrigal Singers.'

Richard was a beloved voice teacher to hundreds of students from the US and abroad. Besides his twenty-year tenure at SIUC, he was a visiting professor at Southern Methodist University and Webster University. While at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, he founded a vocal seminar 'Five Days in May.' Summers were often spent teaching voice in Italy and Austria.

A memorial service for Richard will be held later this summer. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the First United Methodist Church of Carbondale music program, 214 W. Main Street; Carbondale, IL 62901 or the SIU School of Music c/o SIU Foundation, Colyer Hall; 1235 Douglas Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901.

Meredith Funeral Home in Carbondale assisted with arrangements. To leave a story or memory of Richard, visit

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