Stefan Sanchez

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13 December 1954 – 18 July 2020

A Life of Opera

Stefan Sanchez who recently passed away peacefully but unexpectedly in Bangkok, was an opera singer, voice teacher and an opera director of international repute. His life was devoted to music of the opera and passing on his vibrant enthusiasm to others. He was a popular visitor to Pattaya and during the last six years presented many splendid concerts at Ben’s Theater and at events organized by Pattaya Classical Music.


The performers were members of Stefan’s own company, Grand Opera Thailand, which he founded in 2011 to provide opportunities for talented young Thai singers to gain stage experience. The company presented up to forty concerts per year and also gave performances in Myanmar, Bangalore, Karachi and South Korea. Ben Hansen commented that Stefan’s “unwavering dedication to teaching young singers ensured the high quality of the opera company”. However, as far as Stefan’s international career was concerned, Grand Opera Thailand was the tip of the iceberg.

The performers were members of Stefan’s own company, Grand Opera Thailand, which he founded in 2011 to provide opportunities for talented young Thai singers to gain stage experience. The company presented up to forty concerts per year and also gave performances in Myanmar, Bangalore, Karachi and South Korea. Ben Hansen commented that Stefan’s “unwavering dedication to teaching young singers ensured the high quality of the opera company”. However, as far as Stefan’s international career was concerned, Grand Opera Thailand was the tip of the iceberg.

Stefan was born in America; the son of a Mexican-American father and a Welsh mother who was passionate about music and encouraged her children to sing. His father served in the US Air Force and Stefan’s earliest years were spent in Morocco. The family later moved to Spain and then to Wembley in North-West London where Stefan went to high school. At the early age of fifteen Stefan was accepted the London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama and later studied singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music from which he graduated with distinction. There, he had the unique opportunity to study with singers of international repute including Dame Janet Baker, Gérard Souzay, Teresa Berganza and Montserrat Caballé.


In later years, Stefan founded several opera companies including Opera Holland Park, Opera and Concerts Worldwide and Bangkok Youth Opera. In 1992, he formed  European Chamber Opera and became its Artistic Director.  The company toured frequently throughout the UK, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the USA fostering the careers of many young musicians, directors and designers. The company presented about 150 performances during an eighteen-year period and in 1998, Stefan was honoured with the award of Associate of the Royal Academy of Music for his prestigious international work with opera singers.



With a seemingly unending appetite for more music, Stefan became the Artistic Director of London City Opera in 2001 and collaborated with Columbia Artists for the company to tour the USA for two consecutive years, giving performances of the popular operas The Merry Widow and Madam Butterfly.

Throughout his career, Stefan directed opera performances all over Europe and Asia notably with productions of La Boheme, Tosca, Rigoletto, The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Carmen. At the National Theatre in Bangkok, Stefan produced the rarely-performed opera by Gustav Holst Savitri and the Bartok opera Bluebeard’s Castle. In 2011, Stefan was responsible for transfer of Somtow Sucharitkul’s Thai opera Mae Naak to London’s Bloomsbury Theatre bringing a hundred Thai musicians to London to participate in the production.

In recent years, Stefan developed an interest in what he described as “voice wellness training” in collaboration with Darren Royston, the leading international movement specialist. Darren describes the training as “developed from the ground-breaking approaches of Rudolf Laban (movement) and Frederick Husler (voice), and combines physical and vocal technical training with an awareness of inner intentions, emotional communication and the life force of the spirit”.


Stefan had a reputation as an exceptional and enthusiastic teacher who inspired many students and performers, especially in Thailand. One of his first students in Bangkok was Thai counter-tenor Jak Cholvicharn who recently described how Stefan “provided an all-round education: technique, diction, expression, interpretation and acting and also offered us many invaluable performance opportunities.”  Darren Royston has known Stefan for over twenty years and recently wrote, “Stefan saw his passion for opera as a total commitment to communication of emotion through voice, body and spirit.

Stefan Sanchez with the fabulous Grand Opera singers at one of his concerts held at the Thai Garden Resort, Pattaya.

For him, there was no difference between being a performer on stage and being a true and passionate human being in the real world. Love, desire, and intense emotions are the ingredients of all great operatic performances, and Stefan channeled these forces from real elements that were part of all his true relationships. He believed the voice could channel these primal forces and communicate to others in a physical and visceral way. His spirit lives on in his many students and performers who were inspired by him.”

The last words should go to Stefan himself, who once said at an interview, “If you ask me what I came to do in this world I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud.”