John Eaton


John Eaton in Rome

Throughout his trailblazing career, John Eaton (1935-2015) received international recognition for his works in the operatic genre, and as a composer and performer of electronic and microtonal music. Eaton’s work has been performed extensively throughout the world. International performances include those in Italy (at the Venice Festival, Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, RAI, etc.), Germany (Hamburg Opera, NDR, Sudwest Funk, etc.), France, England, Spain, Portugal, Czechoslovakia (Prague Festival), Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Chile, Venezuela, Israel, Japan, Korea, China, Russia, Latvia and Estonia.

In America, his work has been performed by the San Francisco Opera, Cincinnati Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Santa Fe Opera, New York City Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music, among others, and has been featured at the Tanglewood, Aspen, and Pepsico Summerfare Festivals. In addition, several works have been broadcast on Public Radio and Television, and, his opera, Myshkin, was seen throughout the U.S. and foreign countries by an estimated 15,000,000 people. His opera, The Cry of Clytemnestra, has received great public and critical acclaim at its nearly twenty performances, including those under the auspices of the San Francisco Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Bolshoi Hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The Lion and Androcles, written especially for children, was shown on national television and taken on tour by the Cincinnati Symphony. The Tempest was called a “formidable intellectual as well as musical achievement … an opera of stark beauty” by Michael Walsh of Time Magazine, following its premiere by the Santa Fe Opera. His most recent grand opera, The Reverend Jim Jones, was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1993 Eaton formed the Pocket Opera Players, for which he created a series of chamber operatic pieces involving both singers and players in the stage action.  Peer Gynt and Let’s Get This Show on the Road premiered that year to great public and critical acclaim; followed in 1996 by Don Quixote and Golk. On May 30th, 1997, Boston Musica Viva premiered his Travelling with Gulliver, commissioned by them and made possible by a grant from the Fromm Music Foundation. A new opera, Antigone, was added to it in very successful performances in Chicago in 1999. In 2000, Eaton premiered his provocative opera Youth. After the first performances of “…inasmuch” at New York’s Symphony Space, May 21st and 22nd, 2002, Anne Midgette of the New York Times called it “creative, antic, quirky and enchanting”. Further New York Premieres of Travelling with Gulliver and Golk as well as the World Premiere of Salome’s Flea Circus were done on June 23rd and 24th of 2003.

A festival of Eaton’s music took place at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center on May 18th and 19th of 2004, featuring the world premiere of Pinocchio and the New York premiere of Antigone, as well as panels on “The Acting Instrumentalist: Eaton’s Pocket Operas and Eaton’s Contributions to Electronic Music.” His full-length comic opera Pumped Fiction, premiered at Symphony Space on June 20th, 2007, and was repeated by popular demand on September 6th. Allan Kozinn spoke of it as a  “…considerable achievement” in the New York Times.

Eaton received many awards, including the “genius” award from the MacArthur Foundation in 1990. His music was chosen to represent the U.S.A. in 1970 at the International Rostrum of Composers (UNESCO). He received a citation and award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, three Prix de Rome Grants, 2 Guggenheim Fellowships, and, among others, commissions from the Fromm and Koussevitsky Foundations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He lectured at the Salzburg Center of American Studies, and was Composer in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. In September, 2000 his career was celebrated in the American Music Center’s website with excerpts of his operas (, archive, Sept., 2000.) He lectured extensively on his operas for Phi Beta Kappa and at Oxford. Eaton was Professor of Music Composition at the University of Chicago (1991-2001) and at Indiana University- Bloomington (1970-1991). His compositions are published by Shawnee Press, Schirmer (A.M.P.), and American Composers Edition.

A Chronology of a few landmarks in John Eaton’s life and career can be viewed also  HERE