The Washington Ballet mourns its musical director – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc

Opera theater


Norman Lebrecht

November 27, 2021

Message received:

Former opera and ballet conductor Stephen Crout, who founded the Washington Concert Opera in 1986 and served as musical director of the Washington Ballet from 1989 to 2001, died Nov. 23 at the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. He was 77 years old. A native of Elmira, New York, he was the younger of two sons of Dorothy Frank Bly and Walter Bly, taking the surname “Crout” upon his mother’s second marriage to Norman Crout and adoption by the latter. of Stephen and his elder. Brother Glenn. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree in piano from Ithaca College in 1966, he was drafted into the United States Navy to serve in the Vietnam War. After the war he joined the New York choir The Gregg Smith Singers as an accompanist and member of its tenor section, touring the United States and Europe and recording music from Gesualdo to Stravinsky for the Columbia labels. and Vox. His work as a studio pianist and rehearsal accompanist for some of New York’s smaller opera companies earned him an invitation to join the Washington National Opera musical team in the fall of 1980. He remained with the company throughout the 1984-1985 season, eventually becoming master choir and musical team leader. In the spring of 1986, Crout had lunch in Washington with a friend of his WNO years who sang the lead character in Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex with the National Symphony, the late tenor Jerry Hadley, then very popular with DC audiences. He asked the singer to try his luck by inaugurating Crout’s new opera company, founded to present works rarely performed in concert form. Hadley accepted and the Washington Concert Opera opened on May 3, 1987 with Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers with Hadley, soprano Hei-Kyung Hong and baritone Gordon Hawkins at GWU’s Lisner Auditorium. During Crout’s tenure as General and Artistic Director, which ended with his move to Colorado in 2001, highlights of the MDG included the Washington debut of soprano Renée Fleming (her first interpretation of the title role in Massenet Thaïs, followed by a return in 1993 in another signature role, Rusalka by Dvořák) and Deborah Voigt (Der Freischütz by Weber, 1992), mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves (Lakmé by Delibes, 1989, with returns in Anna Bolena by Donizetti in 1992 and Saint-Saëns Samson et Dalila in 1995) and Canadian tenor Ben Heppner (Andrea Chénier by Giordano, 1994). The Washington Concert Opera, now celebrating its 35th season, also saw the first local professional performances under the direction of Crout by William Tell by Rossini, Linda di Chamounix by Donizetti and I vespri siciliani by Verdi. As musical director of the Washington Ballet from 1989 to 2001, Crout not only conducted over 200 performances of The Nutcracker at the GWU Lisner Auditorium and the Warner Theater, but also Carmina Burana d’Orff at the Kennedy Center Opera House. In 1989 and 1990, he conducted performances of Amahl and Menotti’s Night Visitors, directed by the composer at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater and GWU Lisner Auditorium, respectively. As guest conductor, he has performed at Virginia Opera, Wolf Trap Opera Company, Opera Memphis, Lyric Opera Cleveland, Colorado Ballet, and Central City Opera, and has served as artistic director of Ash Lawn-Highland Festival in Charlottesville from 1991 to 1993. He is survived by his husband of 10 years and partner of 40 years, Peter Russell of Washington, DC, his sister-in-law and brother-in-law Joann Desy and Matthew Desy of South Windsor, CT and her sister-in-law and brother-in-law Susan Russell and William Thompson of Easton, MD. He was predeceased by his brother Glenn. Her first marriage ended in divorce. Donations in his memory can be made to Vocal Arts DC, Washington Concert Opera and Urban Arias. No funeral service is planned.