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Ralph Wells
Ralph Wells

Oct. 1, 1959 - June 18, 2008

A program of music and memories at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 28, in the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple auditorium, Scottish Rite Temple 1512, S.W. Morrison St. in Portland, will honor the life and artistic achievements of Ralph Wells. The noted artist and baritone died June 18 at his home in Corvallis after a long struggle with a brain tumor and stroke.

He was born Oct. 1, 1959, in Portland, to Arlen and Kathryn Wells. An outstanding student and athlete at Wilson High School, he was class valedictorian at Portland State University. Oregon State University awarded him the prestigious Petrie Award, taking him to Cologne, Germany, where he pursued his parallel interests in art and music. His pen-and-ink work, which included Oregon mountain scenes as well as movie and artistic legends, was sold widely. He had a reputation for often ambitious, carefully crafted pieces with minute attention to detail.

Wells made his debut with Los Angeles Opera in 2002 as Sonora in La Fanciulla del West starring Plácido Domingo. That same year, he made his Lincoln Center debut in Gordon Getty's Joan and the Bells at Juilliard. In 2004, he returned to the Los Angeles Opera for Die Frau Ohne Schatten under Kent Nagano.

He also appeared with Portland Opera, Seattle Opera, Tulsa Opera, Eugene Opera, Berkeley Opera, Oakland Opera, San Francisco's Merola Opera and Western Opera Theater, Seattle Choral Company, Bozeman Symphony, Oregon Symphony Pops, Seattle Symphony Pops, Pasadena Pops, and Yakima Symphony Pops. Among his many roles were those of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto and Germont.

In 2006, Wells realized his dream of staging Farewell, Vienna!, the musical show he had created around the legend of Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who fled the Nazis and found success in film scores of Golden Age Hollywood.

Wells was a member of the music faculty at Oregon State University, and maintained private studios in Portland and Corvallis.

Also in Corvallis, his wife, Elizabeth, and he formed the Willamette Concert Opera, which performed four seasons there as well as in Portland and Eugene. He was to have performed in "Susannah" this coming weekend, which would have been performed at the Scottish Rite Temple where the memorial services will be held.

He also was a cinematic scholar, and taught college-level courses in movie history.

He had a great love of teaching, and beyond his formal career in education, Wells was a mentor to many - in the arts and music and in life.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Elizabeth, in Corvallis and mother, Kathryn, and brother, Robert, in Portland. Wells was the grandson of the late professors Vera Wells, Department of Home Economics, and Dr. Earl Wells, head of the Speech Department at OSU.

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