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American composer David DiChiera was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania on 8 April 1935, the son of Italian emigrants. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, where he studied composition at UCLA, and then, on a Fulbright scholarship, in Italy, where he researched unpublished eighteenth century opera manuscripts, leading to a series of articles for leading music encyclopaedias. Back at UCLA he studied for a PhD in musicology, then joined the music staff of Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, where he later became chairman of the music department.
He had a series of high profile administrative roles. In 1971 he became the founding General Director of Michigan Opera Theatre and the founding Artistic Director of the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts. From 1979 until 1983 he was president of Opera America, and from 1981 until 1993 he was Artistic Director of the Daytona Opera Association. From 1986 until 1996 he was founding General Director of Orange County's new Opera Pacific. He had also been working towards the opening of the restored Detroit Opera House, and this took place in 1996.
He received critical acclaim for the 1978 first performance of his Four Sonnets (1965) for soprano and piano, setting verse by Edna St Vincent Millay. In collaboration with his partner Karen VanderKloot DiChiera, he wrote the 1973 childern's opera Rumpelstiltskin. His opera Cyrano to a libretto by Bernard Uzan was first performed in 2007 at Detroit Opera House, and was taken up by the Opera Company of Philadelphia in 2008 and by Florida Grand Opera in 2011.
DiChiera retired from active life in 2016, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April 2017 and died at his home in Detroit, Michigan, on 18 September 2018, aged eighty-three.