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Caldwell, Sarah

Sarah Caldwell

Conductor Director

Sarah Caldwell, who was born in 1924, was the founder of the Boston Opera Group, now known as the Opera Company of Boston. She was also a conductor and artistic director of national renown. She won international accolades for her use of the dramatic elements of opera and for expanding the operatic repertoire. Caldwell headed several international exchange programs and was named a National Medal of Arts recipient in 1996. An adventurous conductor, Caldwell was the first woman to conduct at the Metropolitan Opera and the first conductor to produce the following operas: Di Domenica's The Balcony, Middleton's Command Performance, and Shuller's The Fisherman and His Wife.

Caldwell was born in the small town of Maryville, Missouri, in 1924. Soon afterwards her family moved to Kansas City. A child prodigy in both mathematics and music, she began violin lessons at the age of four and was holding violin concerts before the age of ten. She attended orchestral performances of the Kansas City Philharmonic as well as stage performances by the Kansas City Repertory Theater. She graduated from Hendrix College, University of Arkansas, and then moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, the Boston Symphony's unofficial educational affiliate.

Caldwell was soon studying under Boris Goldovsky, head of the New England Conservatory of Music's Department of Opera. She also studied under Richard Burgin, concert master of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Caldwell's love of music and the theater found its focus in the artistic direction of opera. Gold-ovsky became her mentor and guide, and Caldwell was instructed in all elements of opera, from chorus direction and stagecraft to orchestral conducting and costuming. By the age of 20, Caldwell had staged Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea.

As a member of the Conservatory, Caldwell participated in the annual Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox, Massachusetts. (Musicians from the Boston Symphony traditionally perform in Tanglewood for eight weeks each summer.) She trained the choruses for various concerts.

Serge Koussevitzky, permanent conductor of the Boston Symphony (1924–49) and founder of the Berkshire Music Center (1940), admired Caldwell's work at Tanglewood and recommended that she be placed on the Berkshire Music Center faculty. Caldwell's success at the Berkshire Music Center led to her being named Director of Boston University's Opera Workshop (1953–57). She also created the Department of Music Theatre.

As director of the Opera Workshop, Caldwell was able to promote her concept of opera as a dramatic art form as well as search for compositions unfamiliar to American audiences. As one of her first productions, Caldwell staged the American premiere of German composer Paul Hindemith's opera Mathis der Maler.

Caldwell also invited Igor Stravinsky to conduct his only full-length opera, Rake's Progress. Caldwell proved to audiences that Stravinsky's opera could be successfully produced even though an earlier production by the Metropolitan Opera had been given poor reviews.

In 1957 Caldwell, with the help of supporters, founded the Boston Opera Group (renamed the Opera Company of Boston in 1965). The difficulties of staging full-scale opera productions were considerable, but Caldwell's unconventional approach to opera gave her productions an excitement and drama not characteristic of more traditional productions. She insisted upon extensive rehearsals which enabled singers to develop their characters both musically and dramatically. Her commitment to an expanded repertoire led her to locate and produce previously unperformed editions of familiar pieces. Her goal was to involve the audience by bringing out the inherently dramatic elements of an opera without sacrificing its musical content.

Several of the world's most sought-after opera stars were willing to participate in Caldwell's dramatic productions even though they earned less money and had longer rehearsal times. Beverly Sills performed in Manon (1962) and Joan Sutherland made her Boston stage debut in I Puritani. The Opera Company of Boston presented the first East Coast performance of Lulu (1964), the first American performance of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie (1966), and staged the American premiere of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron (1966).

From 1968–70, the opera company was without a home and was forced to hold performances at a variety of locations, but in 1971 funding was received from The Ford Foundation and from the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Orpheum Theater became the new home for the Opera Company of Boston. Operas produced there under Caldwell's artistic direction included Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1973), the original French version of Giuseppi Verdi's Don Carlos (1973), Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace (1974), and Roger Huntington Sessions's Montezuma (1976).

In 1978, after 21 years of working in rented space, the Opera Company of Boston moved into its first permanent home in the Savoy Theater, now named The Opera House. Productions included Michael Tippett's English opera The Ice Break (1979), Leos Janacek's Czech opera The Makropulos Affair (1986), and the first American performances of Zimmermann's Die Soldaten (1982) and Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

For the Record …

Born on March 6, 1924, in Maryville, MO; daughter of Margaret Caldwell (a pianist); died on March 23, 2006, in Portland, ME, of a heart condition. Education: New England Conservatory of Music.

Faculty member, Boston University opera department, 1952–60; founder, Opera Company of Boston, 1952–91; guest conductor at various musical venues, 1991–2003; faculty member, University of Arkansas, 1999–2003.

Awards: Kennedy Center Award for excellence; Rodgers and Hammerstein Award; National Medal of Arts, 1996.

Caldwell's reputation was gaining her both national and international recognition. In addition to conducting orchestras in almost every major concert hall in the United States, from Carnegie Hall to the Dallas Civic Opera House, she was appointed Director of the Wolf Trap Summer Music Festival in Virginia (1980). The first of her cultural exchange programs began as she became involved with special projects in Manila and in Tel Aviv in the early 1980s.

International interest in Caldwell's work took her to China in 1982 for a meeting with the Central Opera Theatre of Peking. Following their meeting, Ming Cho Lee of the Peking opera company produced costumes and sets for an Opera Company of Boston production of Turandot. Caldwell also produced Shchedrin's opera Dead Souls as part of a Soviet-American Making Music Together Festival (1988). Despite the daunting logistics of rehearsing and preparing a production with artists who did not speak each other's language, the Festival was a great success.

Reviews of Caldwell productions were as widely diverse as her productions were original. Thor Eckert Jr. of Opera News criticized the company's 1984 production of Turandot, pointing to details that "spoke more of haste than concept." However, Andrew Porter praised the company's production of The Makropulos Affair (1986), writing that "the Boston company (was) at full strength presenting an opera that matters, and in a way to bring to life what matters about it most."

Caldwell was noted for her simultaneous disorganization and dedication. According to Anthony Tommasini in the New York Times, Caldwell, "sleepless and disheveled, would keep stage crews working all night and fight off creditors all day. Stories abounded of staff members' finding their boss napping in a stairwell or atop a pile of costumes backstage." Opera singer Beverly Sills told Chris Pasles in the Los Angeles Times that because of Caldwell's disorganization, she was difficult to work with. "You had to be prepared to be exhausted because she would suddenly say, 'No, I don't like that. Let's try this all over again.' It was exasperating. But it was fun. I loved every minute."

In 1991, after a period of debt, the Opera Company of Boston went out of business. Although Caldwell cherished hopes of finding enough funding to restart the company, it did not happen. She filled in by taking guest conducting and teaching jobs, often in Russia. In 1999 she accepted a post as distinguished professor of music at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, but left after a few years because of poor health. She left Fayetteville and moved to Freeport, Maine, in 2003. Caldwell died in Portland, Maine, on March 23, 2006, of heart failure. She had no immediate survivors.

Caldwell's achievements with the Opera Company of Boston were astonishing, especially when one considers, as P. G. Davis said in a review, that it was "put together … out of chewing gum, rubber bands and sheer gall." Caldwell's ability not to let obstacles distort her vision won her many admirers. As she once remarked, "The secret of living is to find people who will pay you money to do what YOU would pay to do if you had the money."

Selected discography

As conductor

Bellini: Capuleti e Montecchi, VAI Audio.
Berlioz: Benvenuto Cellini, VAI Audio.
The Art of Beverly Sills, EMI, 1992.
Best of Italian Opera Duets, Royal Opera, 1995.
Gaetano Donizetti: Don Pasquale, EMI, 1996.
Opera Heroes: Alfredo Kraus, EMI, 1997.
The People's Guide to Opera 1, D Classics, 1999.
Great Opera Tenors: Alfredo Kraus, D Classics, 2000.
The People's Guide to Opera 2, D Classics, 2000.
Beethoven: Fidelio, VAI Audio, 2004.
100 Best Opera Classics, EMI, 2004.
Rossini: Semiramide, VAI Audio, 2004.
The Very Best of Alfredo Kraus, EMI, 2005.
The Very Best of Beverly Sills, EMI, 2005.

Sources

Books

Sadie, Stanley, editor, The New Grove Encyclopedia of Music, Macmillan, 1980.

Krufin, Joan, Uncommon Women, New Century, 1985.

Periodicals

New Yorker, December 24, 1973.

New York Times, March 25, 2006.

Times (London, England), April 5, 2006.

Washington Post, March 25, 2006.

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"Caldwell, Sarah." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Sarah Caldwell

Sarah Caldwell

Sarah Caldwell (born 1928) is the founder of the Boston Opera Group, now known as the Opera Company of Boston. She is also a conductor and artistic director of national renown. She has won international accolades for her use of the dramatic elements of opera and for expanding the operatic repertoire. She has headed several international exchange programs and was named National Medal of Arts recipient in 1996.

Sarah Caldwell, founder of the Boston Opera Group (1958), now known as the Opera Company of Boston, was born in the small town of Maryville, Missouri in 1924. Soon afterwards her family moved to Kansas City. Caldwell, a child prodigy in both mathematics and music, began violin lessons at the age of four and was holding violin concerts before the age of ten. She attended orchestral performances of the Kansas City Philharmonic as well as stage performances by the Kansas City Repertory Theater. She graduated from Hendrix College, University of Arkansas, then moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music, the Boston Symphony's unofficial educational affiliate.

Caldwell was soon studying under Boris Goldovsky, head of the New England Conservatory of Music's Dept. of Opera. She also studied under Richard Burgin, concert master of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Caldwell's love of music and the theater found its focus in the artistic direction of opera. Goldovsky became her mentor and guide and Caldwell was instructed in all elements of opera, from chorus direction and stagecraft to orchestral conducting and costuming. By the age of 20, Caldwell had staged Vaughan William's Riders to the Sea.

As a member of the Conservatory, Caldwell participated in the annual Tanglewood Music Festival. (Tanglewood, Massachusetts has been holding an annual music festival for over sixty years. Musicians from the Boston Symphony traditionally perform in Tanglewood for eight weeks each summer.) She trained the choruses for various concerts.

Serge Koussevitzky, permanent conductor of the Boston Symphony (1924-49) and founder of the Berkshire Music Center (1940), admired Caldwell's work at Tanglewood and recommended that she be placed on the Berkshire Music Center faculty. Caldwell's success at the Berkshire Music Center led to her being named Director of Boston University's Opera Workshop (1953-57). She also created the Dept. of Music Theatre.

As director of the Opera Workshop, Caldwell was able to promote her concept of opera as a dramatic art form as well as search for compositions unfamiliar to American audiences. As one of her first productions, Caldwell staged the American premiere of German composer Paul Hindemith's opera Mathis der Maler. Caldwell also invited Igor Stravinsky to conduct his only full-length opera Rake's Progress. (Stravinsky's modern opera, composed to a libretto by W. H. Auden and C. Kallman, combines musical elements ranging from Mozart to Italian opera.) Caldwell proved to audiences that Stravinsky's opera could be successfully produced even though an earlier production by the Metropolitan Opera had been given poor reviews.

In 1957, Caldwell, with the help of supporters, founded the Boston Opera Group (renamed the Opera Co. of Boston in 1965). The difficulties of staging full-scale opera productions were considerable but Caldwell's unconventional approach to opera gave her productions an excitement and drama not characteristic of more traditional productions. She insisted upon extensive rehearsals which enabled singers to develop their characters both musically and dramatically. Her commitment to an expanded repertoire led her to stage premieres of several works that were only later put in the repertoire of other opera houses. Through research, she was able to locate and produce previously unperformed editions of familiar pieces. Her goal was to involve the audience by bringing out the inherently dramatic elements of an opera without sacrificing its musical content.

Several of the world's most sought-after opera stars were willing to participate in Caldwell's dramatic production even though they earned less money and had longer rehearsal times. Beverly Sills performed in Manon (1962) and Joan Sutherland made her Boston stage debut in I Puritani. The Opera Co. of Boston also presented the first east coast performance of Lulu (1964), the first American performance of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie (1966), and staged the American premiere of Schoenberg's Moses und Aron (1966).

From 1968-70, the opera company was without a home and was forced to hold performances at a variety of locations including the Kresge Auditorium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1971 funding was received from The Ford Foundation and from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Orpheum Theater became the new home for the Opera Co. of Boston; another series of dramatic performances began. Operas produced by the Opera Co. of Boston under Caldwell's artistic direction included Kurt Weill's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny (1973), the original French version of Giuseppi Verdi's Don Carlos (1973), Sergei Prokofiev's War and Peace (1974), and Roger Huntington Sessions' Montezuma (1976).

In 1978, after 21 years of rented space, the Opera Co. of Boston moved into its first permanent home in the Savoy Theater, now named The Opera House. Productions included Michael Tippett's English opera The Ice Break (1979), Leos Janacek's Czech opera The Makropulos Affair (1986), and the first American performances of Zimmermann's Die Soldaten (1982), and Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

Caldwell's reputation was gaining her both national and international recognition. In addition to conducting orchestras in almost every major concert hall in the United States, from Carnegie Hall to the Dallas Civic Opera House, she was appointed Director of the Wolf Trap Summer Music Festival in Virginia (1980). The first of her cultural exchange programs began as she became involved with special projects in Manila and in Tel Aviv in the early 1980s.

International interest in Caldwell's work took her to China in 1982 for a meeting with the Central Opera Theatre of Peking. Following their meeting, Ming Cho Lee of the Peking opera company produced costumes and sets for an Opera Co. of Boston production of Turandot. Caldwell also produced Shchedrin's opera Dead Souls as part of a Soviet-American Making Music Together Festival (1988). Despite the daunting logistics of rehearsing and preparing a production with artists who did not speak each other's language, the Festival was a great success.

Reviews of Caldwell productions were as widely diverse as her productions were original. Thor Eckert, Jr., of Opera News reviewed the 1984 production of Turandot and criticized the "details here and there [that] spoke more of haste than concept." In reviewing The Makropulos Affair (1986), Andrew Porter wrote that "the Boston company (was) at full strength presenting an opera that matters, and in a way to bring to life what matters about it most."

Caldwell's achievements with the Opera Company of Boston were astonishing, especially when one considers, as P. G. Davis said in a review, that it was "put together … out of chewing gum, rubber bands and sheer gall." It was Caldwell's ability not to let obstacles distort her vision that won her so many admirers. As she once remarked, "The secret of living is to find people who will pay you money to do what YOU would pay to do if you had the money."

Caldwell was the first recipient of the Kennedy Center Award for excellence. She is also recipient of the Rogers and Hammerstein Award and the 1996 National Medal for Arts.

Further Reading

There is not as yet a full biography of Sarah Caldwell but her career is outlined in The New Grove Encyclopedia of Music, Stanley Sadie, editor (London: 1980) and in The American Music Handbook, Christoper Pavlakis, editor (London: 1974). Other sources of interest include Uncommon Women by Joan Krufrin (1981), Opera News, New York Magazine, and The New Yorker. Both magazines have reviewed Caldwell's more unusual productions. An article by Winthrop Sargent The New Yorker (Dec. 24, 1973) presents an overall look at Caldwell's life and her work and describes how she created remarkable productions with only a minimal of financial backing and a whole lot of imagination. □

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"Sarah Caldwell." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Caldwell, Sarah

Sarah Caldwell, 1924–2006, American opera director and conductor, b. Maryville, Mo. In 1957 she founded the Boston Opera Group, later renamed the Opera Company of Boston, and headed it until its demise in 1990. Under her direction, the company became noted for its innovative productions of a wide range of operas such as Moussorgsky's Boris Godunov and Schoenberg's Moses und Aron and it consistently featured many of the world's finest singers. In 1976 she became the first woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera.

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"Caldwell, Sarah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 20 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Caldwell, Sarah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 20, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caldwell-sarah

"Caldwell, Sarah." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/caldwell-sarah

Caldwell, Sarah

Caldwell, Sarah (b Maryville, Mo., 1924). Amer. opera producer, administrator, and conductor. Staged Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea at Tanglewood 1947. Head of Boston Univ. opera workshop 1952–60. Founded Boston Opera Co. 1957; responsible for f. Amer. stage ps. of Intolleranza (1965), Moses und Aron (1966), War and Peace (1974), Die Soldaten (1982), Taverner (1986). First woman cond. at NY Met, 1976. Art. dir., New Opera Co. of Israel, 1983. Has cond. NYPO, Boston SO, etc.

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"Caldwell, Sarah." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music. . Retrieved August 20, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/caldwell-sarah