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Lee Hoiby, Master of Opera and Song, Dies at 85

Apr. 04, 2011

It is with the deepest sadness that we report the death of composer Lee Hoiby.  Lee Hoiby's gift for musical fantasy was a constant throughout a long life of boundless creative output. His rich catalog of works encompasses operas, oratorios, choral works, concerti, chamber works, song cycles, and more than 100 songs, many of them championed by such singers as Leontyne Price, Frederica von Stade, and Marilyn Horne. Lee Hoiby was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1926 and was one of America's most prominent composers of works for the lyric stage. He was introduced to opera by his teacher at the Curtis Institute of Music, Gian Carlo Menotti, and his first opera, The Scarf, a chamber opera in one-act, was recognized by Time Magazine and the Italian press as the hit of the first Spoleto (Italy) Festival. His next opera, Natalia Petrovna (New York City Opera), now known in its revised version as A Month in the Country, was universally praised at its premiere, the closing octet called a work "of overwhelming beauty, a supreme moment in opera comparable to the Meistersinger quintet and the Rosenkavalier trio." Hoiby's setting of Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke (with libretto by Lanford Wilson) was declared "the finest American opera to date" following its world premiere. Hoiby recently completed what would become his last opera, a setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. A consortia of university and professional opera companies is currently in formation for the opera's world premiere run in the 2012/13 season. Contact us for more information on Lee Hoiby's Romeo and Juliet.

Donations in memory of Lee Hoiby to help support the work of the Lee Hoiby Institute for American Music may be made by visiting

To read Schott Music/EAM Vice President Norman Ryan's tribute to Lee Hoiby on New Music Box, click here.

Read Lee Hoiby's full biography by visiting

Listen to NPR's interview with Lee Hoiby from 2001 here.