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Anthony Bliss; Metropolitan Opera Director

August 13, 1991|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

NEW YORK — Anthony A. Bliss, who guided the Metropolitan Opera and the Joffrey Ballet through troubled financial times, has died.

The Associated Press, quoting an opera spokesman, reported Monday that Bliss, executive director of the Met from 1974 to 1985, was 78 when he died Saturday at a hospital in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage and had pneumonia, spokesman David Reuben said.

An attorney who had been a Metropolitan Opera director since 1949, Bliss gave up his private practice to become executive director at a time when the Met's chances for overcoming financial difficulties were in doubt.

Bliss instituted a program of long-term planning and created the opera's media and marketing departments. He also updated the Met's fund-raising efforts with computers and presided over its $100-million endowment drive in the early 1980s.

Also under Bliss, the opera inaugurated its "Live From the Met" television series in 1977, expanding its national appeal.

Bliss was named general manager in 1981, and with music director James Levine and production director John Dexter became part of the ruling triumvirate at the Met. Earlier, he had been president and had overseen the Met's move to Lincoln Center in 1966.

Bliss was born into a banking family. His grandfather was Treasury secretary under President William McKinley and his father, an associate of J. P. Morgan, served as the Met's chairman of the board from 1939 to 1946.

The younger Bliss was an original member of the National Endowment for the Arts. He was also co-chairman of the Joffrey Ballet's board of directors until 1990, when he resigned in an organizational reshuffling that saw Gerald Arpino continue as artistic director of the dance company he had founded with Robert Joffrey after a failed takeover attempt.

Although not a musician or musicologist, Bliss recalled vividly the empty seats he had seen at the Met during the Depression and vowed then to serve the arts when he was grown.

Survivors include his wife, dancer Sally Brayley Bliss, who once headed Joffrey II, the group's second company; a sister, a brother and six children from his three marriages.

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