The North Carolina Opera mourns the loss of our friend and board member, composer ROBERT WARD (1917-2013). Dr. Ward was a huge figure not just in music in the Triangle, but in postwar American opera. We are grateful for his efforts in helping to found Triangle Opera Company in Durham, for his leadership at North Carolina School of the Arts, and of course for his music, especially THE CRUCIBLE, which has powerfully held the stage for over fifty years.
Watch this wonderful in-depth video interview of Robert Ward, put together by the National Endowment for the Arts as part of their Opera Honors program.
Robert Ward was born in Cleveland in 1917, and attended both the Eastman School and the Juilliard School; his teachers of composition included both Aaron Copland and Howard Hanson. He joined the Army in 1942, and served in both the Aleutians (where he won a Bronze Star), and Okinawa, where he was preparing to take part in the planned invasion of Japan when the war ended. After the war he returned to New York.
Dr. Ward’s first opera was HE WHO GETS SLAPPED, with libretto by Bernard Stambler, based on the play by Leonid Andreyev. This received its premiere 1956 at the Columbia University Opera Workshop. Its success led to a commission from New York City Opera. This became his most famous work, the operatic adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play THE CRUCIBLE, again to a libretto by Stambler. THE CRUCIBLE received its premiere at City Opera on October 26, 1961, with a cast that included Norman Treigle, Chester Ludgin, Patricia Brooks, and Frances Bible, under the baton of Emerson Buckley. The piece was a huge and immediate success, and won the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
His later operas include CLAUDIA LEGARE, an adaptation of Ibsen’s HEDDA GABLER that was presented by Minnesota Opera in 1978. 1982 saw the premieres of two new operas by Dr. Ward – ABELARD AND HELOISE in Charlotte, and MINUTES TILL MIDNIGHT in Miami. MINUTES TILL MIDNIGHT tells the story of an Oppenheimer-like scientist who must face the consequences of having invented an all-powerful weapon. Its original cast included Thomas Stewart and Evelyn Lear, again with Emerson Buckley conducting, in a production from Nathaniel Merrill and Gunther Schneider-Siemssen. In 1993 Triangle Opera Theater in Durham gave the premiere, under the baton of Scott Tilley, of Ward’s one-act opera ROMAN FEVER, based on the Edith Wharton story. Both ABELARD AND HELOISE and ROMAN FEVER were telecast by PBS; there is an original cast recording of THE CRUCIBLE.