Opera maven Sarah Caldwell dead at 82

March 24, 2006 at 7:45 PM

PORTLAND, Maine, March 24 (UPI) -- The first woman to conduct New York's Metropolitan Opera, Sarah Caldwell, has died in Portland, Maine, at age 82.

The founding director of the Opera Company of Boston died Thursday, The New York Times reported.

Caldwell became the first woman to conduct at the Met in January 1976 with "La Traviata," two months after Time magazine featured her on its cover as "Music's Wonder Woman."

She founded the Opera Company of Boston in 1958. The company closed 32 years later in debt and disarray, the Times said, but during its heyday, Caldwell was known for her innovative programs and productions on a shoestring budget with top stars such as Beverly Sills, Marilyn Horn and Joan Sutherland.

Her program was not supported by the local arts community and she stepped into a political firestorm in 1982 when she signed a contract with Imelda Marcos to develop an opera program in the Philippines, the Times said. Caldwell pulled out of the deal a year later after pressure from human rights groups and patrons of her Boston company.

Caldwell lived for years with her mother in the Boston suburb of Weston and has no immediate survivors.

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