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Russell Patterson, a longtime pillar of KC opera, dies at age 85

Updated: 2013-10-03T04:27:33Z

The Kansas City Star

Russell Patterson, a founder of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and its artistic director across four decades, has died. He was 85.

“Without his ceaseless energy and imagination, which created a strong opera and arts foundation in Kansas City, we would be not be here today,” Deborah Sandler, the opera’s general director and CEO, said in a statement.

His legacy to the arts and the community cannot be overstated, she said.

The native Mississippian began as a French horn player, studied opera in Germany after World War II and taught at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music. Patterson also played horn in the Kansas City Philharmonic, which he later conducted, said his son Richard. Described as “a bit of a renegade operation,” his operatic productions, begun in 1958, were “a valid and important part of the American operatic explosion,” according to Time magazine.

After retiring in 1998, he resided in Cape Cod, Mass.

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