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Jim Downey
1934 - 2005

Long-time Super Jim Downey passed away on January 27, 2005.

Born in Michigan in 1934, Jim was an investment counselor by trade, and his hobbies included the martial arts (a 2nd degree black belt in Judo), being a pilot, and, of course, Supering, where he will be remembered, among a host of other (often clergical) roles, for being chosen to be the Cardinal in the "Te Deum" parade in the 75th season gala re-opening Tosca. He was divorced, but remained close to his former wife and their four children. He will be very much missed.

In lieu of flowers, his family has asked that donations be made to the Super Committee in his name. Send checks made out to "Super Committee" to: Paul Newman, 244 Kearny St., San Francisco, CA 94108.

A memorial service was held on Monday, January 31, 2005 in Fort Jones, California. Please feel free to contribute to the "Memories" section, below.



Jim's Super career:

  • 1996-1997: Aida
  • 1997-1998: Eugene Onegin
  • 1998-1999: Don Carlo
  • 1999-2000: Louise
  • 2001 Verdi Celebration: Aida
  • 2001-2002: Arshak II, Tosca, Carmen, Giulio Cesare
  • 2003-2004: Don Carlos
  • 2004-2005: Tosca


Please feel free to contribute by emailing the editor.

I first met Jim during rehearsals for Giulio Cesare in the summer of 2002, worked with him in many productions that followed. Jim was always there with a quiet smile, a funny story, and kind word. I last saw Jim at the Lamplighter’s Yeoman of the Guard performance on January 22. It was a great shock to hear of his death on January 27. I am among many who will miss his presence. ~ Paul Szczesiul

In the last Don Carlos, I was a prison guard in the third act, and Jim's role was as an "evil monk" who would enter and whisper conspiratorally in my ear, after which I would depart, allowing for the murder of Rodrigo. Of course, being Jim, he always whispered an off-color joke in my ear. Fortunately, my back was to the audience so my chuckles were not visible. ~ Mark Burstein

Jim was a warm presence with a subtle, sly smile and kindness oozed from his eyes. As the Pope—or whatever he was—in Tosca, he let me kiss his ring and follow him around. He seemed amused by almost everything, and I get the feeling he had a lot more to say than he did. He was a gentleman. We didn't really know each other, but he paid attention to me as if I were a trusted friend and he laughed openly at my dumb jokes. With his perfect posture and presidential demeanor, he made us all proud to be a Super alongside him. May God bless him on his journey. With a reluctant heart I say Good Bye. ~ John Guglielmelli

Jim befriended me during the 1996 Aida and in the years to follow, he always greeted me with a genuine smile and a new repertoire of raunchy jokes. Jim was a true gentleman who loved opera, appreciated beautiful women, and had a boundless sense of humor. It looks like Tosca will have to be in permanent hiatus now that Jim is no longer with us. ~ Mike Harvey

It is a profound shock to me that Jim has died. As another of the "Keystone Monks" during Don Carlos I had the privilege of spending a lot of time with him, enjoying his wry wit. Because we shared careers in the stock market, there was always something to talk over. Happy Trails, Jim, I'll miss you. ~ Al Cummings

A couple of seasons ago I had missed Comp Night for the Cav/Pag double bill so I went a few nights later without, shall we say, a seat assignment. I bumped into Jim in the orchestra section and it turned out he was in the same situation. He had the scoop on where the best seat was to see the one and only Super performance of the entire evening. Like two mischievous schoolboys, we managed to sneak around under the noses of the hawkish ushers and slip into vacant seats to get a good view of Tom Carlisle on stage right. The last time I saw Jim was when he was about to go on at the last performance of Tosca. He would always stand in the exact same spot in his heavy robes looking as though he was waiting for someone to wheel him onstage for the "Te Deum" a la Fellini's Roma. Seeing the photos on this site, especially the one with Carol Vaness, reminds me what a sweet and funny man he was.~ Andrew Korniej

I was saddened to hear of Jim's passing. Although I didn't know him well, I remember one amusing conversation we had during our last Tosca run.  He was holding forth with some very strong views about the Catholic Church while in the middle of putting on his bejewelled costume to play the Cardinal. (No one wore red and gold brocade better than he did!)  I loved the irony of that moment. There was obviously much wit and intelligence behind his stately presence, and he will be greatly missed.  ~ Grove Wiley

I was distressed to hear of Jim's passing. He was a thorough delight in every way during my stint as Super Captain. I could always rely on him to come for last-minute rehearsals and lightwalking gigs. He was jovial, never complained and glad to do it. A real trouper in every sense of the word, and a lovely man. He was one of the joys of my era. ~ Todd Calvin

Jim was an immeasurable asset to the Super and lightwalking rosters. As a Super he was a regal and graceful bishop (the only production he's been in during my tenure), and as a lightwalker he was eager and contributive. He always had a nice word for people. Right after I became Super Coordinator, my email relationship began with Jim. He took a liking to my name right away—he would always call me "Irish." (Mr. Downey was also of Irish decent.) Sometimes I would get emails that said nothing but, "Good morning, Irish." It was such an immediate endearment. I will remember Jim fondly. ~ Carrie Murphy

Thank you all so much for your kind words and thoughts about Dad. It touches us deeply. Of course, we are all in a little bit of shock still.  The opera held such a special place in his heart for so many years.  ~ Colleen Downey-Moran