Sarah Caldwell H’75

Sarah Caldwell H’75 died on March 23, 2006, in Portland, Maine.

Sarah Caldwell, who received an honorary doctor of music degree from the College in 1975, died on March 23, 2006, in Portland. Born on March 6, 1924, in Maryville, MO, she attended the University of Arkansas as a psychology major and Hendrix College in Arkansas as a violin major. She later earned a scholarship from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She spent summers at the Tanglewood Music Institute in Massachusetts, where she became a member of the faculty in 1948. By 1952, she was running an opera program at Boston University, a program that she kept going for eight years. In 1958, she started her own company, initially called the Opera Group, which by 1965 had been renamed the Opera Company of Boston. The citation for the honorary doctor of music degree that she received at Bowdoin in 1975 said, “Sarah Caldwell, founder, producer, director, and conductor of the Opera Company of Boston and a pioneer in the concept of touring opera throughout the New England region. She came to Boston from Missouri, via Arkansas, with the intention of being a violinist, but at the New England Conservatory of Music, she was captivated by opera and has devoted her life’s work to that art form. She has brought vigor, imagination, and foresight to her productions. The Boston University Opera Workshop production she staged in Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler was the first in America, and the workshop’s production of Stravinsky’s Rake’s Progress marked the beginning of its proper recognition in this country. She established the Opera Company of Boston in 1957; since its foundation it has produced over sixty operas ranging from Offenbach’s Voyage to the Moon to Schoenberg’s Moses and Aaron. Though her base of operation is Boston, she has made her impact felt all over the country, and notably here in Maine, where she has brought opera in its most distinguished form as part of a large scale concept of touring opera throughout New England. Never afraid to work under what other directors would consider impossible conditions, she brings to every production genius and a goodly measure of surprise. Admirable in her craftsmanship, indefatigable in her enthusiasm, dynamic in her interpretation, she has done for opera in New England what few thought could be done and in so doing she has placed us all deeply in her debt.” Sarah Caldwell also received honorary degrees from many other colleges and institutions, including Harvard, Bates, Boston College, Wheaton College, Northeastern University, Smith College, Regis College, Simmons College, the University of Rhode Island, the New England Conservatory of Music, Tufts University, Emmanuel College, Wellesley College, and St. Anselm’s College. In 1978, she was the first recipient of the Kennedy Center Award for Excellence, and in 1977 she received the National Medal of Arts from President William Clinton.