Who is Max Riebl? Died At 30 Due to Cancer

Australian countertenor Maximilian (Max) Riebl, who performed with the Pinchgut Opera and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, has died of cancer aged just 30.

Who Is Max Riebl?

The ethereal-voiced singer was born in Melbourne on June 26, 1991, into a family of musicians. His Austrian father, Luis, is a psychoanalyst, but Luis’ brother, Thomas, is a violist and music teacher in Vienna. Max’s older brother, Felix Riebl, founded the jazz/funk band The Cat Empire in 1999 when he was a teenager, and his sister Rose Riebl is a pianist, singer, and songwriter.

Since news of his death broke, there has been an outpouring of emotion on social media with Erin Helyard, the artistic director of Pinchgut Opera, describing him as “a singer with a translucent, burnished tone and vivid coloratura and athletic” and “a gentleman who was thoughtful and calm”, while Mitchell Butel, who directed him in the Pinchgut production of The loves of Apollo and Dafnesaid he was “as charming and as magnificent as any fairy tale prince” and “a prince of a human being too”.

Max Riebl Death

Riebl played the trumpet as a child, making his debut with The Cat Empire aged ten, on stage at the Prince Wales Hotel in St Kilda, Melbourne. He showed ability as a singer and actor at an early age and sang with the Melbourne Grammar School Chapel Choir under Philip Carmody. He also played La Jeunesse in Mendelssohn’s oratorio Elijah with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra.

In 2004, he moved to Vienna where he attended the Musikgymnasium (Music High School). He sang as a soloist in the Musikverein and Schubertsaal and performed the role of Cupid in John Blow’s opera Venus and Adonis at the Kammeroper. He has also performed with the Clemencic Consort and the Hofburg Chapel Choir and has been engaged in numerous solo performances in and around Vienna.

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While in Vienna he studied singing with Silvia Purchaser. His other longtime voice teacher was Dermot Tutty in Melbourne. He also studied Baroque performance in Switzerland, at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. During this time he worked with Gerd Türk, Jörg-Andreas Bötticher and Andrea Marcon.

Performing the great works of Monteverdi, Bach, and Handel, Riebl has received top prizes in competitions such as the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Arias and Chicago’s Classical Singer Competition.

Early in his career, he performed with the Pinchgut Opera, Australian Brandenburg Orchestra, Vienna Chamber Opera, La Cetra Baroque Orchestra, London Handel Orchestra, The Song Company, Adelaide Baroque, and the Victoria Orchestra, among others. He performs regularly at the Melbourne Recital Centre, Hamer Hall at the Arts Center Melbourne, the Athenaeum Theater, and City Recital Hall Sydney. Her career highlights included performances at the Vienna Concert House, the Musikverein, and the Royal Albert Hall.

In 2013, he starred in Simon Stone’s production of Hamlet at Belvoir. In his own concerts and cabaret shows such as The great pretender and The cold genius combined rock, pop, and classical music, fusing Bach, Handel, and Schubert with Garland, Radiohead, and Morrisey to create something all his own in performances for the Adelaide Festival, Melbourne Cabaret Festival, and Melbourne Fringe Festival.

He recorded with the Cat Empire (EMI) and the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra (ABC) and performed on the soundtrack of the Australian film remember the man.

Erin Helyard released a statement in which he described Riebl as “a vocalist with a translucent, burnished tone and lively athletic coloratura”.

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“Max was a gentle, thoughtful, and quiet man and anyone who shared the stage with him felt the placid glow of his presence. At the forefront of his musical personality was an unwavering dedication to beauty, clarity, and warmth of tone. “He had an instinct for ornamentation and improvisation, and he excelled in da capo embellishments. His great vocal attributes were effortless virtuosity and a clear, pure sound. He was at the height of his powers,” Helyard said.

“Max was welcomed into the Pinchgut family with his corporate debut as Gilad in Vivaldi’s farnace (2019). In 2021 he played Apollo in a critically acclaimed performance by Cavalli The loves of Apollo and Dafne. Max thrilled audiences not only as Apollo, the god of music but also in his virtuoso voice acting roles as Titone, Cirilla, and Cefalo. The same year, Max sings as a soloist in our famous Monteverdi Vespers. These recordings are among the last products of Max’s art. All of us at Pinchgut Opera were very close to Max and his family during the last year of his illness, and our hearts go out to [his wife] Bethany, [and children] Ivy, and Billy.

Riebl sang with The Song Company as a guest artist and then briefly as a lead artist. Antony Pitts, artistic director of The Song Company, said on Facebook: “Max Riebl sang with us for a short time, but during that time he demonstrated both the excellence of his unique artistry and a sense of equally beautiful commitment, sticking with us through tough times and always keeping your cool in the face of production madness – a real pro.

“I remember the sweet smile he gave me after he sang his cover version of Kate Bush Run up that hill least that is when we had done a good job that night.

“This photograph (by Connor Malanos) is of Max during our mammoth 150 Psalms project for the Adelaide Festival, checking out the thousands of pages of music we had to prepare, and no doubt figuring out where he was going to do something special.

“Our hearts go out to his family. May the precious love they shared, which Max has spoken about openly and beautifully, sustain them in the days ahead.

Mitchell Butel described Riebel in a Facebook post as “as charming and as gorgeous as any fairy tale prince”.

“And he was also a prince of a human being. Wise and calm and intelligent and assured beyond his 30s. A deep thinker and questioner. A sneaky mind. A truth-teller. A playful collaborator. One of the best countertenors and performers in the world. And one of her most beautiful and loving husbands and fathers too,” Butel wrote.

“Work with him [on The Loves of Apollo & Dafne] and getting to know him better has been one of the real joys and educations of my life. He of course triumphed and was cheered by all who saw and heard him. “

“During his illness, our friendship deepened. Despite his pain, his tenacity, his bravery, his quest for truth, his desire for more art, his honesty about the world and life continually struck me down.

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Butel quoted the last post that Riebl himself posted on social media the day before his death:

“Hundreds of solo exhibitions around the world. Orchestras, Operas, Renaissance Ensembles, Vespers, cabaret, and theatre. Spectacular places. Thousands of hours of practice, radio interviews, photoshoots, extraordinary musicians. Hundreds of hours of travel, countless songs learned and sung. Dozens of competitions. Thunderous applause. Silence and contemplation. Recording sessions. Sleepless nights. Hotel rooms. Solitude. Laugh. After the holidays.

Tension. Freedom. Bach, Monteverdi, Vivaldi, and everything contemporary. Airports. Sacrifice. Sets, costumes, suits worn to the end and stained with sweat. Difficult to quantify. Difficult to understand. A series of intense, unbearable and haunting experiences and memories. Some of the most important and honorable people I have known. You know who you are and I will never forget you.

“For those who don’t know, I have been diagnosed with incurable cancer. The fight has been brutal and relentless and the current symptoms make performing and touring impossible at this time. Nothing is set in stone, Miracles do happen, but for now, thank you for your support, kindness, and appreciation. May the music continue and may Australian musicians continue their brave pursuits, through thick and thin. With love. Max”

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