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Obituary for the conductor Sarah Caldwell.

Her company seldom presented more than four productions per season. But from the start Ms. Caldwell attracted world-class artists, notably Ms. Sills and Dame Joan Sutherland. In most of her productions Ms. Caldwell was both director and conductor. Though her double role often made for opera productions with a strong vision, it just as often seemed to divide her attention, resulting in weakened execution on stage and in the orchestra pit.

Her longest period of success came in the 1970's, when the company was thriving and Ms. Caldwell's visibility as a conductor was growing. In 1974, she became only the second woman to conduct the New York Philharmonic. (Nadia Boulanger had been the first in 1939 and again in 1962.) For the program, co-sponsored by Ms. magazine, Ms. Caldwell offered only works by women: Grazyna Bacewicz, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Lili Boulanger, Pozzi Escot and Thea Musgrave.

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As a student I got the chance to usher for Boston Opera, and thus saw several performances of each production. Sarah Caldwell was phenomenal even then, with a natural and extraordinary connection to artists which allowed her to attract so many great ones to this wierd old movie theater in Boston. She was wonderful and very involved with all levels of opera lovers, from the stars to the ushers. I almost never think of great people in the arts by their first name, but for me she will always be "Sarah."

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