December 3, 2013
Among the many passionate and often contentious legions of opera fans, there are few people who have universal acceptance and admiration. The most prominent of these rare people was Mike Richter, who died in October at age 74. There is now a YouTube tribute to Mike, with the introduction:
As a tribute we present — in the spirit of Mike — three of his favorite singers in repertoire not available elsewhere. Mike had a weakness for the creamy voice of Anna Moffo, who can be heard in "One Night of Love" originally written for Grace Moore. Two of his all-time favorite tenors were Rudolf Schock and Alfredo Kraus. In May 1951 Schock recorded Hans Ebert's "Im Fruehlingsgarten" and Alfredo Kraus can be heard in Massenet's "Elégie" sung live in March 1980.
Michael D. Richter has gained international recognition in two unrelated fields: computer applications in space technology and the preservation of opera recordings.
With a Bachelor's degree in mathematics from the University of Chicago as academic training, in 1969 he was one of 100 civilian recipients of the Presidential Medal recognizing "those who made Apollo fly," for his work at M.I.T. Labs in designing micro-computer applications in the Apollo guidance systems, largely done before the first micro-computers had been built.
After a brief stop at Commodore Corporation, where he designed proprietary software including the first letter-merging program and the first practical word processor for the Commodore 64 (the first widely marketed home computer), he moved on to the TRW Corporation's aerospace division in Los Angeles, where his work included theoretical computer applications that later became known as digital photography — which began when he used his own Commodore computer to correct over-exposed photos he had taken as a semi-professional photographer.
After a viral infection of the heart forced him to take permanent disability while still in his 40s, Mike began what he called his "second life," immersing himself in the world of opera. Having been active on the internet since its inception as a link between the handful of universities and labs working on Apollo ... Mike turned his computer skills to the preservation of opera recordings.
Mike's computer-enhanced Edison cylinders, otherwise unrecorded live performances made during World War II for servicemen in isolated posts onto CDs, and rare vintage recordings to clarify the sound to a level better than the original. As rights to these obscure and often illicit recordings could never be obtained, he then distributed a handful of copies at cost to a few serious collectors, with copies available to the public at the Library of Congress, The University of Pittsburg, and at music evenings he often hosted at his home in Los Angeles.