Dominick Argento (b. October 27, 1927, York, Pennsylvania) is an American composer, best known as a leading composer of lyric opera and choral music. Among his most prominent pieces are the operas Postcard from Morocco, Miss Havisham’s Fire, and The Masque of Angels, and the song cycles Six Elizabethan Songs and From the Diary of Virginia Woolf, the latter of which earned him the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1975. In a predominantly tonal context, his music freely combines tonality, atonality and a lyrical use of twelve-tone writing, though none of Argento's music approaches the experimental avant garde fashions of the post World War II era. He is particularly well-known for sensitive settings of complex, sophisticated texts.
As a student in the 1950s, Argento divided his time between America and Italy, and his music is greatly influenced both by his teachers in the United States and his personal affection for Italy, particularly the city of Florence, where he spends part of every year and where many of his works were written. He has been a professor (and, more recently, a professor emeritus) at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and he frequently remarks that he finds that city to be tremendously supportive of his work and that he thinks his musical development would have been impeded had he stayed in the high-pressure world of East Coast music. He was one of the founders of the Center Opera Company (now the Minnesota Opera), and indeed Newsweek once referred to the Twin Cities as “Argento’s town.”
Argento has written fourteen operas as well as major song cycles, orchestral works, and many choral pieces for small and large forces, many of which were commissioned for and premiered by Minnesota-based artists. He has referred to his wife, the soprano Carolyn Bailey, as his muse, and she was a frequent performer of his works. She died on February 2, 2006.