Robert Peterson: Mormon Singer
Clark Robert Peterson was a well-known singer, actor, and performer. He was born on January 13, 1932, in Omaha, Nebraska, and reared in Salt Lake City, Utah. He attended the University of Utah briefly and then with a scholarship, he studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York City. He began his musical career appearing in the Utah Summer Festival in 1953. He was lead bass/baritone for the Metropolitan Opera Studio and broke into Broadway productions when he was the understudy for Robert Goulet in the original 1961 production of “Camelot,” and replaced him more than seventy times in the role of Lancelot. The following year he took over the role, and in 1963–1964, he toured the United States with a national company of “Camelot,” winning critical acclaim for his baritone voice. After a long run with “Camelot,” he toured with a two-man show, “From Broadway with Love,” with the Abbey Singers, a madrigal quintet.
In addition to musical theater, Peterson sang in other productions led by renowned conductors Leonard Bernstein, Fritz Riener, Robert Kraft, Arnold Gamson, and Dimitri Metropoulos, and Maurice Abravanel. He enjoyed a long career in opera, musical theater, television, recordings, and concerts.
In 1968, Peterson and his family had come to Salt Lake City temporarily when he put on a two-man show at the Valley Music Hall and starred in “Promised Valley,” a production of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Peterson was a member. Later in the early 1970s, Peterson and his wife, Lois, decided to move to Salt Lake City to raise their six children. They moved to St. George in 2001 and he planned on performing with the nearby Utah Shakespeare Company, which he did until his unexpected passing in December 2003.
Throughout the state of Utah, he was a staple at the University of Utah’s Kingsbury Hall, the Pioneer Memorial Theatre, and the Utah Shakespearean Festival, playing the title role in the opera “Don Giovanni” and Don Quixote in the musical “Man of La Mancha.” He was an artist-in-residence and adjunct theatre professor for many years at the University of Utah and appeared in numerous productions there. In 1998, he received the Utah’s Governor’s Award in the Arts. One of his favorite performances was singing at President Gordon B. Hinckley’s 90th birthday party..
According to his obituary, he loved playing handball, and was playing the game at the time he suffered a fatal heart attack. “He loved a good game of Scrabble with his wife and kids and grandkids. He was also an avid crossword puzzle aficionado. He enjoyed the desert and exploring the canyon lands of Utah. His greatness of character was exemplified by the way he worked at recuperating from a recent stroke. He never lost his sense of humor and his spirits never dampened. No matter what Dad did, he did with dedication and enthusiasm.”