Former opera chief dies

RALEIGH, N.C. — Donald Davis Wilder, former conductor and artistic director of the National Opera Company, died Oct. 2 at age 76.

Wilder had been with the Opera Company for more than two decades and stayed active with the group after he retired in 1997, becoming conductor laureate.

“He was a real professional, dedicated to the Opera Company and the singers,” says Tom McGuire, former executive director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which has been a major funder of the opera. “He is responsible for the great success of the company over the years.”

In 2000, the Fletcher Foundation pledged $10 million over 10 years to merge its National Opera Company with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, and renamed the group the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute.

“He was devoted to the opera company,” says McGuire who now is a founding partner of Armstrong McGuire Philanthropic Advisory Group. “He really gave it everything he had.”

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