Opera Artistic Director Graham Dies

Colin Graham, the artistic director of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, died Friday. He was 75.

Graham died of respiratory and cardiac arrest at St. John's Mercy Medical Center, a spokeswoman for the organization said.

The Opera Theatre of St. Louis was formed in 1976, and Graham joined it two years later. He became artistic director in 1985.

Graham, a native of England, received an Order of the British Empire award at Buckingham Palace in 2001. He earned a lifetime achievement award in 2004 from the Texas-based National Opera Association, which promotes excellence in opera through education.

Robert Hansen, director of the National Opera Association, said that under Graham's artistic leadership, the Opera Theatre of St. Louis earned a reputation for innovative productions and presentation of new or neglected works.

'I think it's a significant loss, any time we lose someone who is as innovative and successful in promoting opera,' Hansen said.

During his 29 years in St. Louis, Graham staged 48 new productions, Opera Theatre of St. Louis general manager Charles MacKay said in a statement. His world premiere production of David Carlson's 'Anna Karenina' is scheduled to open April 28 at Florida Grand Opera in Miami, and in St. Louis on June 3.

Graham's assistant, Mark Streshinsky, will take over as stage director.

Graham was director of productions for English Opera Group from 1963 to 1975 and became artistic director of its successor, the English Music Theatre. He has staged productions for the Metropolitan, Washington, Minnesota, Omaha, San Diego, San Francisco and New York City operas as well as the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Opera Pacific. He also spent 10 seasons working for the Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico.

At Graham's request, there will be no funeral. MacKay said a memorial service is planned, but a date has not been set.