Michael D. RICHTER, who died on October 21, 2013 in Glenview, Illinois following a brief illness, gained international recognition in two unrelated fields in his 74 year lifetime: computer applications in space technology, and the preservation of opera recordings.

Howard Richter - Mike's brother - wrote the following comments on how it all started :

"Mike was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in May, 1939. Our father began as a roofer, failed at several small businesses and died when Mike was 11 years old. Our mother then went to work as a secretary at City Hall. To my knowledge neither of them ever attended a concert or owned a recording.
Mike discovered classical music at age 15. Looking for something to do on a Friday night, he purchased a $1.00 ticket in the third balcony to listen to the Philadelphia Orchestra under Leopold Stokowski. As I recall, it was the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with Nathan Milstein, but that may be apocryphal. In any case, he got the bug.
His first year of college, his interest turned to opera. He never studied music, but he was a mathematician and saw the natural relationship between the two. By the time he graduated, he was a regular patron of "The Victor Café" in Philadelphia, a little known spot where performers would come after theater or concerts, performing on a tiny stage and joining in a "stump the host" game, where anyone who could name an RCA Victor recording not available in house got a free drink. Mike never bought a drink..
Mike never married, and when he was forced to take medical disability while still in his 30-ies he had the money to expand his already sizable music collection. As an early computer expert, he was well positioned to be among the first to use the internet to expand his library and share what he was gathering. And thus it began.

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 40's, Mike began what he called his "second life", immersing himself 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,. Already well on the way to accumulating what would become one of the largest privately-held opera recording collections in the world, in the 1980s, 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 CD's, 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. Although he never claimed the credit, more than one member of the opera community believes that his transcriptions to CD-ROM of the complete classes taught in the early 1970-ies at Julliard by Maria Callas were the inspiration for the Tony Award winning musical "The Master Class".

A heart attack in 2009 forced Mike to give up these activities, transfer his opera recordings to a distributer who is still in the process of cataloging and transcribing them for public release, and relocate to Glenview, to be near his brother’s family in Deerfield and Highland Park. Over the last four years, while a resident at the Seasons of Brookdale, he has conducted both opera evenings and a weekly movie night for residents, even though his voice had been reduced in the last year to little more than a whisper. Just before his death, arrangements were made that his last collection of commercially available opera videos and recordings – numbering about 200 titles – will be put in circulation at the Northbrook Public Library.

No services were held.


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.


(thanks go to Howard Richter, Evan Baker and Kurt Youngmann/WM-L for the photos)