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Hans Clause Moritz Bomhard

Early Life and Education

Moritz Bomhard was born in Berlin, Germany in 1908. He earned a degree in law from the University of Leipzig and in the same year received a diploma from the Leipzig Conservatory of Music. Bomhard came to the United States in 1935 when he was granted a fellowship at Juilliard School of Music in New York. His work as a composer and conductor there, was so promising that he won and extension of the fellowship over a four-year period. He began his first teaching appointment at Princeton University where he was an instructor and the director of the university orchestra and glee club.

In 1942, Bomhard became a citizen of the United States and was inducted into the U.S. Army Air Force where he served for four years. At the end of World War II Bomhard returned to the United States and enrolled at Columbia University where he received his M.A. in 1947.

In 1949 Bomhard was invited to Louisville Kentucky to produce an opera using mostly local resources. He worked to produce The Mariage of Figaro and during its debut in Louisville his wife, who professionally sang under her maiden name, Charme Riesley, was the Cherubino. Three years afterward, Bomhard agreed to come to Louisville to found and serve as the artistic director of the Kentucky Opera Association. Bomhard was the heart and soul of this program acting as general manager, stage director, scenic designer and artist, light designer and conductor during its early years. He performed tasks such as designing and building the sets, directing stage action, playing the rehearsal piano, and finally conducting the final performances in the orchestra pit.

The Kentucky Opera Association was one of the first regional opera companies in America. It began with a mere $10,000 budget to produce three operas, but has now grown into a regional company with an annual budget of $ 2.4 million. Having operas in English available was very important to Bomhard. He believed if people understood what the singers were singing they would enjoy the show more. He translated many operas into the English language himself.

Not only did Bomhard take on the enormous responsibility of managing the Kentucky Opera Association. He also served as a professor at the University of Louisville School of Music. There he lectured classes, conducted opera workshops, and coached singers. He was also a member of the Board of American Opera Auditions and the Louisville Orchestra Board. He also served as a judge of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

Bomhard received honorary degrees from Urseline College and Centre College of Kentucky. He received the Giovanni Martini Award from Bellarmine College, and was awarded the Downtown Salute to the Arts Man of the Year award. In 1980 Berea College awarded Bomhard an honorary degree of Doctor of Music.

Works Cited

Chrisman, John D. “Report of the Honorary Degrees Committee.” January 7, 1980. Print.

Additional Resources

  • Berea College Vertical File, Special Collections and Archives 

  • RG 11 – Honorary Degrees V, Berea College Archives  

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