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Argento, Dominick

opera music composition minn

Argento, Dominick, outstanding American composer and teacher; b. York, Pa., Oct. 27, 1927. He received training in piano from the age of 15, and soon began teaching himself theory and orchestration. After serving as a cryptographer in the U.S. Army in East Africa (1945–47), he pursued studies in piano with Alexander Sklarewski and in composition with Nabokov at the Peabody Cons, of Music in Baltimore (B.M., 1951). He also received private composition instruction from Weisgall. In 1951–52 he held a Fulbright fellowship and studied with Dallapiccola in Florence. From 1952 to 1955 he taught at the Hampton (Va.) Inst. During this period, he also served as music director of the Hilltop Opera in Baltimore. He concurrently pursued training in composition with Cowell at the Peabody Cons, of Music (M.M., 1954), and then completed his composition studies with Rogers, Hovhaness, and Hanson at theEastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. (Ph.D., 1957). In 1957–58 and in 1964–65 he held Guggenheim fellowships. In 1958 he joined the faculty of the Univ. of Minn., where he was named Regents’ prof. in 1980. In 1963 he co–founded the Center Opera Co. (later the Minn. Opera) in Minneapolis, which was inaugurated with his opera The Masque of Angels on Jan. 9, 1964. His remarkable opera Postcard from Morocco was premiered there on Oct. 14, 1971. In 1975 he won the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his notable song cycle From the Diary of Virginia Woolf A U.S. Bicentennial commission resulted in his outstanding opera The Voyage of Edgar Allan Poe, which was first performed in St. Paul on April 24, 1976. He received an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1979. His compelling opera Casanova’s Homecoming opened the Ordway Music Theater in St. Paul on April 12, 1985. It won the National Music Theater Award in 1986. His highly rewarding opera The Aspern Papers, after Henry James, was premiered at the Dallas Opera on Nov. 19, 1988, and won wide recognition via its telecast by PBS. His finely crafted opera The Dream of Valentino was first performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 15, 1994. In 1997 he was named composer laureate of the Minn. Orch. in Minneapolis.

In his distinguished oeuvre, Argento has displayed a remarkable capacity for composing compelling vocal and orch. scores. His operas, choral works, and songs constitute major contributions to the vocal art in the U.S. Early on Argento eschewed the precepts of stark modernism to embrace an imaginative and well crafted style marked by melodic invention, a sure handling of orchestral color, and a heartfelt lyricism. An artful command of text setting is a hallmark of his vocal writing.

Ariosti, Attilio (Malachia) [next] [back] Argenta (real name, Herbison), Nancy

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