Born in Maryville, Missouri, in 1924, Sarah Caldwell was a math and music prodigy who learned the violin at the age of four in Kansas City. She studied at the New England Conservatory of Music's Department of Opera and founded the Opera Company of Boston. She was the first woman to conduct the Metropolitan Opera and the second to conduct the New York Philharmonic.
Caldwell led the way for women conductors in opera by producing more than 100 operas during her career. She worked with diva Beverly Sills as her star in 17 performances, and she convinced Josef Svoboda, a set designer who would work on 700 performances around the world, to defect from the Iron Curtain.
Calswell was at the helm of the Opera Company of Boston, from its founding in 1952 until the company shut its doors in 1991. She appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1975 and was the subject of a feature film, “A Musical Adventure in Siberia," about her work with singers, dancers and composers from the Soviet Union in 2005.
Caldwell received the National Medal of Arts from Bill Clinton in 1997 and held 37 honorary degrees at the time of her death in Portland, Maine, at the age of 82.