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Opera star Mildred Miller, founder of Pittsburgh Festival Opera, dies at age 98

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Opera star Mildred Miller, who founded what is now known as the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, has died at age 98. 

Mildred Miller Posvar, known professionally as Mildred Miller, charmed audiences of major opera houses across the United States and Europe. As the First Lady of the University of Pittsburgh, married to Chancellor Wesley Posvar, she charmed incoming freshmen, faculty, alumni and visiting dignitaries at countless dinners and receptions. 

According to Miller's obituary, she died on Wednesday, just weeks before her 99th birthday, at her home in Pittsburgh, surrounded by her three children. She had Parkinson's disease, and until last year, she maintained an active calendar of board meetings, the symphony, opera and football games. 

Opera star Mildred Miller, who founded what is now known as the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, has died at age 98.  (Photo: University of Pittsburgh)

Her obituary calls her a mentor and coach who inspired countless careers and founded the Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, now known as the Pittsburgh Festival Opera. For 20 years, until her retirement at age 95, she was a full-time voice teacher at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Music. 

Miller debuted at the Met on Nov. 17, 1951, as Cherubino in "The Marriage of Figaro," which she performed a record 61 times. During her 23 years at the Met, she sang 338 performances, singing 21 different roles.  

Wesley Posvar, a high school classmate Miller reconnected with later in life and married in 1950, served as the chancellor of Pitt from 1967 to 1991, where Miller was the first lady. 

"Mildred Miller Posvar excelled in every role she played, whether it was as Cherubino or Carmen, mentor and teacher, or wife, mother and, later in life, as Nana to her seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren," her obituary reads. 

Visitation will be at John A. Freyvogel Sons from 1-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8. A funeral is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9 at Calvary Episcopal Church. There are also plans for a memorial service at a date and location yet to be announced. 

In lieu of flowers, her obituary asks for donations to be made in her honor to either the Pittsburgh Festival Opera, the Mildred Miller Scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh or the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music. 

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