We encourage you to read comments about Louisa shared with us by participants from previous seasons of Operafestival di Roma. She was loved and she will be dearly missed.

In Loving Memory


Louisa Panou Takahashi (neé Louisa Panaiotopoulos) passed away in her home in Charlottesville, Virginia, on January 16, 2006. The cause was pancreatic cancer.


Louisa was born in Limassol, Cyprus in 1949. A singer all her life, she became interested in opera when at the age of twelve she heard a recording of Maria Callas, and immediately discarded her Elvis recordings, redecorated her room with pictures of La Callas and began to study classical voice.


Three years later she auditioned for a young artist program at Teatro Massimo di Palermo in Sicily and was accepted. Her beloved grandfather (Papous, she called him) relented and accompanied her to Italy, feeling that this was only youthful exuberance and that she would soon return to her home. Knowing no Italian and the youngest singer in the group, Louisa applied herself without compromise and soon was singing minor roles on the main stage and speaking Italian like a native. A year later she was accepted to study at the world-renowned Conservatorio di S. Cecilia in Rome, from which she graduated in only three years.


Not satisfied that she had yet really learned how in sing, she continued to study and received an Artist Diploma from the Conservatorio Giuseppe Verdi in Milan and an Opera Performance Certificate from Bayerisches Staatstheater in Munich. Fluent in five languages, she performed extensively throughout Europe from 1970 to 1985 as an operatic singer and a recitalist with her first husband, Tone Takahashi, a flutist and son of the famous Japanese painter, Goro Takahashi. They lived for extended periods in Milan, Athens, and Thessaloniki, and she served on the faculties of the Greek National Conservatory of Music in Thessaloniki and at the University of Athens.


Louisa came to the United States in 1985 and earned a Masters Degree in Music from Kent State University in 1987 and a Doctorate from Florida State University in 1989. She taught voice, directed opera, and sang at Brigham Young University, The University of Minnesota, and Southeast Missouri State University before assuming the position as Professor of Voice and Director of Opera Programs at the University of Virginia in 1996.


In 1994, she founded Operafestival di Roma, an award-winning opera training program, which brings singers from around the world to Rome each summer to study and perform opera. In the eleven years she served as the program’s Artistic Director, she staged and directed a total of 15 operas, and more than 500 singers experienced her enormous store of knowledge, artistry, energy, talent, and dedication.


Louisa married Bill Welty in Charlottesville in 1998, and, in her words, “adored him beyond measure.” She extended this adoration to her students, her family, her huge circle of friends, her cats, her music, her flowers, and good food. She is survived by her husband, her brother, Theodoros and his wife and son who live in Cyprus, four stepchildren and six stepgrandchildren.


A concert to celebrate her memory took place at the University Baptist Church in Charlottesville on February 26, 2006. Contributions to a Memorial Fund in her name can be sent to:


Operafestival di Roma

1445 Willow Lake Drive

Charlottesville, VA 22902

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