Obituary: Des Moines Metro Opera Founder Robert L. Larsen Passes

By Nicolas Quiroga

Des Moines Metro Opera‘s founder and director emeritus, Robert L. Larsen, passed away on Sunday, March 21.

Larsen was born in Walnut, Iowa on November 28, 1934 and at age 10 he was already immersed in piano classes, and eventually entered Simpson College. He then continued his studies at the University of Michigan before returning to the music faculty at Simpson. He did his Ph.D. at Indiana University and sometime later joined The Metropolitan Opera.

Then in 1973 he and Douglas Duncan founded Des Moines Metro Opera. He always showed an important affinity with American operas, to the point that he mounted more than 120 productions in which he worked as director and stage director uniting his dramatic and musical values.

He was an accomplished educator and served as Chair of the Department of Music at Simpson where he taught for 33 years. During his time there, he started an opera program and taught pianists as well as provided lectures and courses on a wide range of topics, including a course specializing in Medieval and Renaissance literature.

He was awarded the first Governor’s Award in Music in 1973 and the 1990 Iowa Arts Award presented by the Iowa Arts Council.

“Today the world lost a visionary and an artist, and our Company has lost a guiding light,” said the company’s General & Artistic Director, Michael Egel in a press release. “The thousands of musicians, friends and colleagues who knew, learned from and interacted with this singular and remarkable man over his 50+ years were forever changed. We are all richer for the experience of having learned, worked and performed alongside him. His legacy is immense. Nothing will quite be the same again.”