Edward Downes, a musicologist, professor, and critic best known as host of the "Texaco Opera Quiz" heard during live Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, died Wednesday at his New York home. He was 90

Edward Downes, a musicologist, professor, and critic best known as host of the "Texaco Opera Quiz" heard during live Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts, died Wednesday at his New York home. He was 90. The opera quiz featured experts answering questions from listeners during intermission, from 1958 to 1996. Known for his wit and mellow baritone voice, Downes put panelists at ease and offered teasing hints to the answers when experts were stumped.

Born in the Boston suburb of West Roxbury, Downes began attending operas at a young age with his father, Olin Downes, a critic at The Boston Post who later became chief music critic at The New York Times. After his father's death in 1955, Downes became a music critic at the Times, staying for two years until taking the opera quiz job.

Downes, who never completed an undergraduate degree, earned a Ph.D. in musicology from Harvard University at age 47. He later taught at Wellesley College, the Longy School of Music, the University of Minnesota, and Queens College. He also wrote program notes for the New York Philharmonic.

He served in the Army during World War II, at one point helping Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. prepare briefing books for the Office of Strategic Services, precursor of the CIA.

An extensive memorial to Downes is being planned for broadcast on what is now called the "ChevronTexaco Opera Quiz," said producer Michael Bronson. A brief tribute will be read during tomorrow's (Dec. 29) broadcast of Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel," the first opera Downes saw as a child. A list of stations carrying the program is available from the Metropolitan Opera's official Web site.

Downes is survived by a sister and four nieces and nephews.


AP LogoCopyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

Print