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Jerry Sherk Dies

May 6, 2014

Jerry SherkRobert Zullo writes in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

The best thing he did, it turns out, was not offer him the job.

Christopher Hahn [former San Francisco Opera rehearsal administrator] said he was new to San Francisco from South Africa and looking to break into opera production when he sat for an interview with Jerome Ray Sherk, then the production stage manager for the San Francisco Opera.

"I didn't know the opera world very much, but I was looking for a job as an assistant director," said Mr. Hahn, now general director of the Pittsburgh Opera. He credits the encounter with Mr. Sherk with getting the backstage and organizational experience that propelled his career. "Basically, he didn't hire me, but he introduced me to someone else in another part of the company ... and he hired me."

Mr. Sherk, director of production at the Pittsburgh Opera, died Thursday after a four-month battle with cancer. The native of Willamsburg, Mass., was 65.

"The thing about Jerry in the opera world is he is legendary," Mr. Hahn said, describing an able manager equally adept with stagehands, musicians and the world-famous performers.

"Just an enormous array of all the greats in the opera world pass through San Francisco, and he had to deal with them and he was a marvel," Mr. Hahn said. "He was so extraordinarily calm and witty. He was really the template of what you want a stage manager to be. They're very rare people."

... Mr. Sherk was production stage manager in San Francisco, a job he held for 21 years and had him working with Luciano Pavarotti, Joan Sutherland, Plácido Domingo, Leontyne Price, and Marilyn Horne.

Mr. Sherk's true legacy was the generations of stage managers and assistant directors he trained, now spread around the world in major positions in operas and theaters, Mr. Hahn said.

"Everywhere you go, every major theater, you will meet people who were given their first jobs by Jerry, and then he mentored them through the early parts of their careers," he said.

Mr. Sherk is survived by his wife, Tara, their two children, Charles and Odette, and his five siblings.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].