Remembering Carol Stuart (1933-2017)

Carol as Violetta with Michael Harrison as Alfredo in La Traviata (1977)

Born in 1933, soprano Carol Stuart was an incredible singer who inspired an opera company and was a significant factor in Robert L. Larsen and Douglas Duncan’s decision to launch Des Moines Metro Opera in 1973. A remarkable lyric coloratura with significant acting skills and stage craft, Carol sang 10 principal roles with DMMO between 1973 and 1979.  She passed away peacefully on Sunday, July 23, 2017.

“I really built an opera company for Carol Stuart, a soprano with whom I graduated from college,” said Robert Larsen. “She was a great singer with a voice at once lyric and dramatic and no one who saw her in La Rondine or Suor Angelica or Madama Butterfly or The Consul or Die Fledermaus or Manon ever forgot it. Artists coming to the Company from the outside would be stopped in their tracks by this formidably gifted lady who was often the centerpiece of the festival and lent a sparkle and panache to all she performed and to all those around her. One of the great voices of the world and she was ours.”

Carol Stuart (center) with Robert L. Larsen (left) and Michael Patterson (right) at the unveiling ceremony of DMMO’s 35th Anniversary Retrospective in 2007

“Carol Stuart and her remarkable voice were one of the wonders of the musical world. Once heard, it was virtually impossible to forget the overwhelming beauty of her voice. I shall forever be grateful to have known her and to experience her totally distinctive vocalism and dramatic creations,” said Michael Patterson.

Carol’s roles at DMMO

Magda                  La Rondine                          1973

Olympia               Prima Donna                     1973

Cio-Cio San         Madama Butterfly              1974

Suor Angelica     Suor Angelica                     1975

1st Lady               The Magic Flute                  1975

Manon                 Manon                                 1976

Antonia               The Tales of Hoffmann      1977

Violetta                La Traviata                         1977

Magda                  The Consul                          1978

Rosalinda             Die Fledermaus                 1979


Click HERE to listen to Carol singing Violetta’s “Sempre libera” from DMMO’s La Traviata in 1977.

The Consul (1978)

Carol recalls her role as Magda Sorel in DMMO’s 1978 production of Menotti’s The Consul:

“Although Gian Carlo Menotti wrote The Consul in 1950 and in spite of the fact that the setting is an Eastern European city, it’s uncanny that this libretto could have been written today about any police state in the news. The same can be said about it fitting in perfectly into the 1978 season when DMMO mounted the production. Since the creation of the world, ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ has been on the loose and will no doubt continue as long as hatred, greed and persecution remain part of the human psyche.

I was aware of the impact this opera was going to have on me from the first all-cast rehearsal. Imagine, playing the role of a woman whose husband has been shot running from the police, bursts into the home bleeding and in shock and then escapes into the night, neither of them knowing if or when they will see each other again. That’s only the first act! At the end of each performance, I was completely drained from being Magda, a woman desperately trying to escape and thwarted at every turn by a labyrinth of seemingly endless paperwork and political bureaucracy. As she is hounded by the secret police, going almost daily to the consulate where she is met with nothing but dead ends, her child becomes ill and dies and John’s mother is near death. John tries every avenue but cannot arrange for his family to escape, and at last, after a final visit to the office of the consul, Magda comes home, turns on the gas oven and kills herself.

In the well-chosen cast were Anne Larson as the Mother, Harlan Foss as John Sorrel, Robert McFarland as the Chief of Police and an unforgettable performance by Douglas Duncan as the magician, Nika Magadoff. How sad to realize that Douglas and my dear friend Anne are no longer with us. This opera is one of so many precious memories I will always cherish in connection with them. I thank Robert for allowing me one of the most unforgettable singing experiences of my life.”

Carol (center) as the title role in Manon (1976)

For many years, Carol was able to attend a final dress rehearsal each year, but health concerns had prevented her from doing so for the last several years. With the assistance of family and caregivers, Carol was able to attend the final dress rehearsal of Turandot this season on June 20, 2017.  General and Artistic Director Michael Egel and audience members were able to pay tribute to the company’s first prima donna that night. To be able to welcome her back one more time and to salute Carol in person on the occasion of the 45th Anniversary was a high point of this year’s Summer Festival Season.

Carol as Magda in The Consul (1978)

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