In Remembrance

With heavy hearts, Des Moines Metro Opera shares the loss of our beloved Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus, Robert L. Larsen. He passed away peacefully in Indianola on Sunday, March 21, 2021. Our hearts go out to his family, friends and former students at this time of immense sorrow.

Visionary conductor and stage director Robert Larsen was born in Walnut, Iowa, in 1934. Against the backdrop of that rural Iowa community, he developed an unlikely interest in opera. Early in his career, he declined an offer from the Metropolitan Opera in order to remain in his home state to share his love for music and theatre with his fellow Iowans. Dr. Larsen believed that quality performances of great music should not exist exclusively in America’s largest cities, but could belong to everyone. With that in mind, in March of 1973 and with little time to spare, he selected opera titles, hired singers, formed a board of directors and raised $22,000 to launch Des Moines Metro Opera just a few months later on June 22, 1973. That first season, professional singers worked alongside his students to create something out of nothing via sheer determination and loyalty to their beloved leader.  Larsen served as Conductor and Stage Director for every one of the nearly 120 productions for the Company’s first 38 seasons – an unparalleled accomplishment in American music. He worked and collaborated with more than a thousand singers, orchestra musicians, designers, technicians, and he motivated colleagues to reach the peak of their own capabilities. Today as the company he founded approaches its 50th Anniversary Season, he remained immensely proud of its next generation and the Company's continued success following his retirement in 2009.

His love of Iowa and great music was boundless. Nothing delighted him more than great singing and marvelous young voices. His passion for music-making inspired all those who had the opportunity to work alongside him including artists, colleagues, students and members of the community. He instilled in them the same awe and wonder that surrounded his earliest memories of music and the joys of his life. The strength of his vision to bring quality opera performances to Iowa brought thousands of people to this magnificent art form, forever changing the lives of so many. He will live on in our hearts forever.

Memorial Services
Visitations will be held on Friday, March 26, from 3-8pm at the Overton Funeral Home in Indianola and on Saturday, March 27, from 9:00-10:30am at the First Presbyterian Church in Walnut, IA. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, no public graveside service is planned. When it is safe to do so, Des Moines Metro Opera will host a Memorial Concert to celebrate this extraordinary life. Further details will be available at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Robert L. Larsen Scenic Fund at the Des Moines Metro Opera Foundation, which provides annual funding to support the design and construction of new scenery and original productions each season.

Anna Vikre's Testimonial
Dr Larsen was such a dear special person. I am heartbroken to hear he has passed. He touched so many people. Always such a gentleman, so kind and loving. I am immensely thankful and fortunate to have sung with him on several productions. Besides his musical genius, he was so creative. I'm remembering his amazing tie collection, his stunning house that looked like it could grace the pages of Architectural Digest. His fun parties. Having afternoon tea on his sunporch. His creativity had no bounds. I loved that about him. Singing with him was an amazing experience I will always...
– Anna Vikre
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Dr. Larsen's vision was to create an opportunity for all to enjoy opera. He converted a young southern Iowa guy, straight out of Simpson, who listened to Van Halen and coached; into a lover of opera. And he had a sock collection that no one can match. Dr. Larsen, I will miss you.
– Chad Alley
I first met Robert in the spring of 1967. I was auditioning for a music scholarship at Simpson College. My father had passed away a year earlier and my family was not wealthy, so I would need a scholarship to go to college. Luckily, I was awarded a scholarship and attended Simpson as a freshman in the fall of 1967. In the spring of 1968, Robert asked me to give a tour of the campus to a prospective music student, to "show him around". That prospective student turned out to be Doug Duncan. Doug was visiting campus to take his...
– Reid Stringer
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I was a music student at Simpson from 1972 - 1976. Classes with Dr. Larsen immersed quickly into the world of all kinds of music. I particularly enjoyed being a member of the Madrigal Singers. The 1975 Madrigal Christmas Dinner was one of many highlights of my time at Simpson. I was impressed with his memory when I met him several years later on the Simpson campus and he remembered. Enjoy your peace. You deserve it. Rev. Bill Utterback
– William Utterback