Guido Della Vecchia, 82 of Spearfish, passed away in the Rapid City Regional Hospital on Wednesday, March 13, with complications from pneumonia.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1930, Guido was well known in Spearfish and the Black Hills area, he and his wife, Johanna Meier Della Vecchia, had moved to Spearfish permanently in 1984. From 1991 until 2008 he acted in and functioned as co-producer of the Black Hills Passion Play, the internationally famous production presented in the Amphitheatre in Spearfish. During the 1960s and early 1970s he and his wife appeared several times in concert at Black Hills State University and arranged for opera performances by a touring company to be held there. They also organized numerous benefits and fund raisers for the Matthews Opera House, and the High Plains Heritage Center, with performances by members of the Black Hills Passion Play company. For three years Guido served on the boards of directors of the Spearfish Arts Center and Matthews Opera House, and since its inception, for the Spirit of the Hills Wildlife Sanctuary in Spearfish. He was active in the creation and promotion of the annual Johanna Meier Opera Theatre Institute held each spring at Black Hills State University.
Well known for his beautiful tenor voice, Guido began vocal studies at the age of 18. In 1951, during the Korean War, he was inducted into the army where he was trained as a radio technician. He was then selected as one of six to go to Germany where he sang as an entertainer in special services throughout the country for the remainder of his tour of duty. Upon his discharge, he lived in Italy where he refined his musical art by studying with several of Italy’s foremost maestri at the Cherubini Conservatory in Florence. He also attended the University of Perugia, and taught English through the Berlitz schools. Returning to the United States in 1958, he met his wife Johanna, and they continued their vocal careers both jointly and individually. During this time he performed at both Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, and sang a number of leading Italian opera roles and concerts throughout the United States. His last professional appearances were in 1980, singing with the Seattle Opera Company.
Della Vecchia was also an avid hunter and outdoorsman and a collector of fossils and mushrooms. He loved reading, talking politics, cooking lavish Italian meals for his friends and caring for his many animals.
In 2003 the South Dakota Board of Regents of Education granted an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Della Vecchia in recognition of his distinction within his profession. In 2011 he and his wife received a Special Service Award from Black Hills State University honoring their contributions to the community of Spearfish, and dedication to the advancement of the arts in the state of South Dakota.
Guido was preceded in death by his parents, Luigia and Amato Della Vecchia, and his brother, Mario Della Vecchia. He is survived by his wife, Johanna Meier Della Vecchia, his sister and brother-in-law, Louise and Albert Stellato, and nine nieces and nephews.
A small private service has been held for his immediate friends and family, and a public Memorial Concert will be presented at Black Hills State University in the near future.
Arrangements are under the care of Fidler-Isburg Funeral Chapels and Crematory Service of Spearfish.