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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Composer Stephen Paulus Dies at Age 65

Posted By on Thu, Oct 23, 2014 at 10:03 AM

  • Sharolyn Hagen Photography

Composer Stephen Paulus died on October 19 as a result of complications from a major stroke he suffered in July of 2013. Paulus was well known in the St Louis area for his contributions to the orchestral and symphonic communities.

Paulus wrote hundreds of pieces of choral and operatic music over his 40-year career. In the '70s and '80s he created some of his most famous works for the Opera Theatre of St. Louis. As the first composer commissioned by the theater in 1979, only three years after it was founded, he debuted several important operas in its early years.

The OTSL's current director, Timothy O'Leary, credited Paulus for helping the theater gain success over the following years. "It is extraordinary to think that Richard Gaddes and the nascent Opera Theatre of St. Louis commissioned a major world-premiere opera for its fourth season," He told the Post-Dispatch. "Our company will always owe a debt of gratitude to Stephen Paulus for writing such beautiful and successful works."

Shortly after receiving his PhD in composition from the University of Minnesota in 1978, Paulus wrote his first piece for the OTSL in 1979. The one-act show was titled "The Villager" and garnered praise from critics, but it was his second opera for the theater that became his most famous.

An adaptation of the 1934 crime novel by James McCain, The Postman Always Rings Twice, generated critical acclaim. The New York Times wrote, "In its world premiere Thursday night by the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Postman rang the bell often enough to reinforce faith in Mr. Paulus as a young man on the road to big things."

The composition was the beginning of a successful run between Paulus and the theater that included three more operas. Over the next 40 years Paulus would create over 400 pieces in a wide range of genres.

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