Sarah Caldwell, founding director of the Opera Company of Boston and the first woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera died on 24th March 2006 of heart failure. She was 82.
Her most productive years were the 1970s and 80s; she staged more than 100 operas in Boston ñ often the most challenging that other companies shied away from. Even on a reduced budget Caldwell managed to present inventively; she staged the US premier of Boris Gudunov in Mussorgskyís original orchestration nine years before the Met did and also presented the first American production of ìLes Troyensî by Berlioz.
She was often faced with financial trouble and many of her most notable productions were presented in an atmosphere of financial necessity. Her Opera Company of Boston, after 32 years, went out of business in 1990 ñ its final production being Robert Di Domenicaís ìThe Balconyî.
Caldwell was born in Montana, moving first to Arkansas and then to Bostonís New England Conservatory as violin and viola major. She spent her summers at the Tanglewood Music Institute where her idol, Serge Koussevitzky who was the director of the Institute, was so impressed he invited her to join the faculty. Under the tutelage of Boris Godolvsky ñ the head of the opera programme at the Institute she developed and in 1957 Godolvsky helped her to found her own company.
After the Opera Company of Boston folded she remained active and in 1999 she was appointed distinguished Professor of Music, leading the opera programme at the University of Arkansas where she grew up.
Calwell retired in 2004 due to poor health, settling in Freeport, Maine. She never gave up hope that she could raise enough money to restart her company, but sadly this was never to be.