Michigan Opera Theatre Founder Dies

Opera artistic director David DiChiera has died in Detroit. Many say he led the rebirth of the city’s downtown by championing culture as a magnet to draw new development in the years following the 1967 riot in Detroit.

A musician credited with using opera to help revitalize the city of Detroit has died.

Many say 83-year-old David DiChiera almost single-handedly created a renaissance in Detroit’s downtown.

Jake Neher/WDET

In 1971, a scant few years after riots ravaged Detroit, David DiChiera created the Michigan Opera Theatre in the city’s then-barren downtown and took the almost unheard of step of casting African Americans in leading roles.

Opera singer Coleen Downey says DiChiera helped start her stage career.



And she says DiChiera recast Detroit’s downtown into a thriving entertainment district.

“Right around the Music Hall there were drunks sleeping in the doorways. But David really was one of the forefathers of turning around this renaissance,” Downey says.

DiChiera also became a leader in national opera organizations and founded the California-based group Opera Pacific.

His funeral Friday is set, fittingly, at the Detroit Opera House.  


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.