Composer Profile: Tobias Picker, Dynamic American Composer

By David Salazar
(Credit: Josh Huskin)

Tobias Picker is known as one of the most famous American composers still working. His operas, such as “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Dolores Claiborne,” have become popular at opera houses across the country and the world.

Picker was born July 18th, 1954 in New York City and showed an early penchant for composing. His first work was composed at the age of eight. Picker attended the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied under opera composer Charles Wuorinen. After graduating college, he studied further at Juilliard and at Princeton University.

The composer’s first opera, “Emmeline,” premiered at the Santa Fe Opera in 1984, when Picker was just 28. Later operas include: “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (1998) at the LA Opera, “An American Tragedy” (2005) at the Metropolitan Opera, and “Dolores Caliborne” (2013) at the San Francisco Opera, a work inspired by Stephen King’s novel.

The current artistic director of Tulsa Opera, Picker has received numerous awards, including induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Forthcoming operas include “Awakenings” and “The Danish Girl.”

Signature Work

Picker received the 2020 Grammy for “Best Opera Recording” for his opera “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” an opera based on the beloved Roald Dahl’s book for children. He is known for his close association with soprano Patricia Racette, who has performed in his operas “Emmeline” and “An American Tragedy.”

Learn More

Check out our interview with Picker on his love for opera.


Here are a couple of passages from some of his well-known operas.

“The Letter Aria” from “An American Tragedy.”

“Emmeline” with Patricia Racette.


Opera Wiki