Robert Warren Davis, 94, Lighting Designer

Robert Warren Davis, Emmy Award winning Lighting Designer died peacefully of natural causes on December 25. He was 94 years old.

Mr. Davis began his lighting career while working with Jean Rosenthal at the New York City Center. He joined NBC as a Lighting Director in 1951 for a temporary seven weeks as his primary goal was to be a leading operatic tenor. The temporary position with few breaks led to a thirty- two year career and association with NBC.

He retired from NBC in 1983 recognized as one of television’s leading Lighting Designers. In October of 1999 he was so recognized by the New York Academy of Television Arts and Sciences with a life time achievement award – The Silver Circle Award – for his contribution to the industry and community.

Robert Davis was born in Philadelphia on February 6, 1918. In 1937 at the age of nineteen he was awarded a scholarship to the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia and in 1940 a scholarship to Tanglewood. Although the country was not yet at war the Army Air Corp denied his request for an eight week deferment.

After basic training he was stationed in Selma, Alabama and in 1941 joined the elite 50 voice chorus (conducted by Leonard de Paur) in Moss Hart’s “Winged Victory.”

Following the war Mr. Davis returned to the Academy of Vocal Arts to continue his studies. While studying he performed with the Philadelphia Opera Company. He also appeared with the St. Louis Municipal Opera and toured with the Charles Wagner Opera Company. In New York he was part of the original company of “Carousel” both on Broadway and on tour.

After “Carousel” he returned to New York to continue his studies and began working at the City Center. Among his many credits are “ Robert Montgomery Presents”, Dwight David Eisenhower’s Presidential Campaign, the first “Opening Night Gala from the Metropolitan Opera” (closed circuited to 28 cities), “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin, the “Ford 50th Anniversary Special with Mary Martin and Ethel Merman,” “Coliseum” (circus series), “Miss America Pageant” (both the stage and television show), “Bob Hope Birthday Special” aboard the Iwo Jima anchored in New York Harbor and “Live from 8H” (series of 4 music and dance specials), and “Horowitz Live” for which he won his Emmy.

He was able to work with some of the greatest opera stars of the time as they appeared on “The Bell Telephone Hour,” “The Voice of Firestone” and “NBC Opera.”

During his career Mr. Davis with NBC’s approval was Consultant to many educational television stations both for the Carnegie Commission and the Ford Foundation. In 1969–1970 he served as Lighting Consultant at WGBH, Boston. While there he was also the Lighting Designer for the first “Evening at Symphony” and “Evening at Pops” and two operas produced for NET Opera Theatre. Beginning in 1976 and for 15 seasons he was Lighting Designer and Consultant to the New Jersey State Opera- lighting over 25 operas including a world a world premier “Frederick Douglass.”

He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth, of 45 years, a niece Ann Shewman of Naples, Florida two great nieces and a great nephew of Philadelphia. In lieu of flowers contributions may be made to The Academy of Vocal Arts, 1920 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103-6685. His funeral will be held at St. Thomas Fifth Avenue. Details will be announced.

In: 1960s, 1970s, Boston Symphony, Obituaries, Symphony Hall

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