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Celebrating the African-American Conductor Henry Lewis

Wikipedia- public media
Henry Lewis with Marilyn Horne in 1961.

Continuing our series of podcasts on the African American conductor, I've asked Columbus based conductor Antoine Clark to join me in talking about Henry Lewis (1932-1996).

  Henry Lewis was born in California. Trained on the double bass, Lewis formed the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and conducted for the U.S. Army in Europe in the 1950s. Henry Lewis became Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony in 19868, soon elevating a community based orchestra into the big leagues.

Lewis made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera  on October 16, 1972, conducting La boheme.  He led 138 performances at the Met, including productions of Carmen and Le Prophete starring his wife, mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne, whom he married in 1960. The couple divorced in 1979.  Other Met assignments were Romeo et Juliette and Un ballo in maschera.

Henry Lewis went on to conduct the Netherlands Radio Symphony as Principal Conductor, and continued to appear internationally until shortly before his death in 1996.

Our podcast tribute to Henry Lewis includes excerpts from his recording of Richard Strauss's Don Juan, his 1976 television special for the BBC, and a 1991 performance of Rossini's Semiramide in Venice.

Christopher Purdy is Classical 101's early morning host, 7-10 a.m. weekdays. He is host and producer of Front Row Center – Classical 101’s weekly celebration of Opera and more – as well as Music in Mid-Ohio, Concerts at Ohio State, and the Columbus Symphony broadcast series. He is the regular pre-concert speaker for Columbus Symphony performances in the Ohio Theater.