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Studied at Eastman School and with Bartók in New York City * Since 1950 has composed ten operas in the American vernacular tradition * Stage works combine keen sense of irony with penetrating psychological insight * Style is wide-ranging, with musical language adapting to realise distinctive mood, character or emotion * Most of his operas are based on American history and literature * Wit and lyrical gifts come to the fore in operatic numbers, songs and choral works * Taught at Columbia University for five decades

Works include:
Hello Out There (1954) Chamber opera in one act
The Sweet Bye and Bye (1956) Opera in two acts
Lizzie Borden (1965) A family portrait in three acts
Cyrano (1990) Heroic comedy in music

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