Lyric tenor James Stuart, who founded the Ohio Light Opera, died March 7, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. He was 76 years old.
The Baton Rouge-born Stuart founded the company in 1979 at the College of Wooster, after years of putting up Gilbert and Sullivan productions at Blossmon Music Center. His then-employer, Kent State University, was not interested in a resident summer operetta company, so Stuart moved the idea to Wooster, where the company was soon drawing visitors from around the country and Europe.
The company’s repertoire was eventually expanded to include other European and American works, including American premieres of some works—Auber’s Fra diavolo, Lecocq’s La Fille de Madame Agnot, and Millocker’s The Beggar Student—translated by Stuart himself. Stuart remained Ohio Light Opera’s artistic director until his retirement in 1999.
In his singing career, Stuart was principal tenor with Dorothy Raedler’s American Savoyards and the Martyn Green Gilbert and Sullivan Company, and performed with opera companies in New York, Boston, Cleveland, Atlanta, and New Orleans, among others. As a soloist he performed with the Cleveland Orchestra, Rochester Philharmonic, New Orleans Symphony, and the Handel and Haydn Society in Boston. He also made television appearances on The Perry Como Show and The Andy Williams Show