Dominick Argento papers acquired by Performing Arts Archives

Portrait of Dominick Argento
Dominick Argento. Image courtesy of University of Minnesota Archives

By Kate Hujda

This fall, the Performing Arts Archives welcomed the archives of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Dominick Argento.

The collection, totaling 30 boxes, includes letters, score manuscripts, signed photographs, and several rare recordings. The materials illustrate the composer’s impressive creative output as well as his collaborative relationships with other Twin Cities musicians and musical groups, including Philip Brunelle and VocalEssence, Dale Warland and the Dale Warland Singers, the Minnesota Opera, and tenor Vern Sutton.

The collection also documents his long-held relationship with the University of Minnesota, where he retains the title of Professor Emeritus.

Dominick Argento was born in 1927 in York, Pennsylvania. He obtained degrees from the Peabody Institute and the Eastman School of Music, and spent a year in Florence on a Guggenheim Fellowship, before settling in Minneapolis in 1958. Once in Minnesota, he began teaching at the University of Minnesota School of Music and quickly developed relationships with performance groups local to the Twin Cities. Notably, Argento helped shepherd the Minnesota Opera’s (then Center Opera) inaugural performance in 1964. His one-act opera, The Masque of Angels, was commissioned to mark the occasion.

Since then, Argento has completed commissions from numerous performing ensembles both locally and nationally, composing five commissioned works for the Minnesota Opera alone.

Handwritten score for "Postcards from Morocco"
Draft manuscript of the score to Postcards from Morocco (1971)
Stack of spines of audio cassettes
Audio cassettes in the Dominick Argento Papers.

Highlights of Argento’s archives include not only original score manuscripts of some of his best-known works, but also a large collection of rare audio recordings on reel and audio cassette.

These audio recordings include the premiere performance of The Masque of Angels, as well as Postcards from Morocco (premiered by the Minnesota Opera), and Jonah and the Whale (premiered by VocalEssence), to name only a few.

The audio collection also includes a recording of the premiere performance of Argento’s Pulitzer-prize winning work, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, a song-cycle composed for the English mezzo-soprano Janet Baker in 1974.

audio reel containers
Audio reels in the Dominick Argento Papers

For more information about the Dominick Argento Papers, or related collections in the Performing Arts Archives, please visit the Performing Arts Archives website, or contact Kate Hujda at hujda001@umn.edu.

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