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Maurice Abravanel; Led Utah Symphony

September 24, 1993|From Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Maurice Abravanel, the youngest conductor in the New York Metropolitan Opera's history and music director of the Utah Symphony for more than 30 years, has died at age 90.

Abravanel, who died Wednesday, had been in failing health for two years.

The son of Spanish-Portuguese parents, he grew up in Switzerland and studied music in Berlin with composer Kurt Weill. He made his conducting debut at 21.

He moved to Paris with his first wife, singer Friedel Schacko, in 1933 to flee Germany's emerging Nazi government, and there he became music director of Balanchine's Paris Ballet.

He moved to the United States in 1936. At 33, he became the New York Metropolitan Opera's youngest conductor.

Abravanel turned his attention to Broadway two years later, conducting a number of Weill's musicals, including "Knickerbocker Holiday," "One Touch of Venus" and "Street Scene." He won a Tony in 1950 for his work on Marc Blitzstein's "Regina."

He was named music director of the Utah Symphony in 1947, a position he relinquished in 1979 because of poor health. He also resigned as director of the Santa Barbara-based Music Academy of the West that year. He had undergone heart surgery three years before.

But in 1982 he was working again, this time as acting artistic director of the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Mass., the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He returned every year after as artist in residence.

Abravanel, who became a U.S. citizen in 1943, was presented the National Medal of Arts by President George Bush in 1991. The American Symphony Orchestra League awarded him its Gold Baton in 1981.

In January, Salt Lake City's Symphony Hall was renamed in Abravanel's honor during ceremonies marking his 90th birthday.

Abravanel's first marriage ended in divorce and his second wife, Lucy Menasse Carasso, died in 1985. He is survived by his third wife, Carolyn.

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