Patrick Thomas Bakman was born in Fresno, California, where he grew up and received his early education at St. Helen's School. Later, he left Fresno to attend Bellarmine College of Preparatory in San Jose. He received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, earning a B.S. in chemistry in 1966. Bakman's predilection for the theater and performing arts showed clearly in active participation during his college years in student organizations such as the Mask and Bauble Society, the university's dramatic group; and the Collegium Musicum (Friends of Music), composed of students interested in the academic role of music and a sponsor of the Georgetown Concert Series. After Georgetown, Bakman went on to Columbia University to pursue his interest in theater and earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in directing in 1970.
Bakman's professional career began auspiciously in 1972 when he was engaged to stage Carlisle Floyd's opera “Susannah,” for the New York City Opera at Lincoln Center. Patton Campbell, one of Bakman's first teachers at Columbia, recollects the vigorous progress of the promising young director: “In the fall of 1967 I taught my first class in the Theatre Department at Columbia, and there were three designers and three directors...One of the directors was Patrick Bakman, and his love of music and fascination with opera were obvious from the start. As most of you know, when Patrick wanted something, he was never shy! Toward the end of his third year he told me that he wanted to work for the New York City Opera and that he wanted to assist Frank Corsaro [veteran director of NYC Opera productions]. I told him I thought I could arrange the one, but I wasn't so sure about the other. Well, one phone call to [NYC Opera director] Julius Rudel, and Patrick was engaged for the fall season and almost immediately assigned to Corsaro's productions. Soon afterward he began assisting in Frank's classes. Now, I've passed the torch to a lot of young designers, but I'm enormously proud to have passed it to a talented young director as well…” (from an address given by Campbell at Bakman’s memorial service, December 20, 1990).
In less than a decade, after his first assignment with the New York City Opera, Bakman's talent as a director and knowledge of opera and theater earned him engagements with many prominent opera companies around the country. His engagement in Alaska by the Anchorage Opera, to have started in 1991, would have been the fiftieth state in which he directed. (A resume of Bakman's major productions is given at the end of this introduction.)
The legacy of gifted teachers in his university years was never lost on Bakman. In his turn, he was deeply involved in passing along to the next aspiring generation of directors, all the knowledge he had acquired from his own mentors and experience. For two consecutive summers in 1972 and 1973, he directed the Opera Workshop Program at the State University of New York at Albany. In the spring of 1975 he was artist-in-residence at the Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, where he conducted an acting seminar and directed a new musical, “Up Your Stars.” For two consecutive semesters, from fall 1979 through spring 1980, he taught a directing seminar on the plays of Tennessee Williams and Oscar Wilde at the University of Houston, Theatre Department. From 1978 to 1980, Bakman was director of dramatic studies for the Houston Opera Studio of the Houston Grand Opera. He gave classes in interpretation of operatic arias, acting and improvisational acting, as well as directed the Houston Opera Studio productions of “The Rape of Lucretia,” and “Two Widows.” During this time, he also taught two semesters (fall 1979 and fall 1980), at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he also directed the Opera Workshop and productions of “La Boheme,” and “The Consul.”
Bakman resided in Manhattan, N.Y. until his death on December 16, 1990, at age 46. He was survived by his parents Virginia and Richard L. Bakman, who continued to reside in Fresno; his brother Richard, also in Fresno; and sister Jane Anne of Newport Beach. Bakman is buried in Fresno. In his memory, the Patrick Thomas Bakman book fund was established by his family and friends at the Georgetown University Library.
Resume of productions directed by Patrick T. Bakman --
Arkansas Opera Theatre: Marriage of Figaro 1987; Magic Flute 1989; A Postcard from Morocco 1989; Threepenny Opera 1989.
Augusta Opera: Marriage of Figaro 1978; Washington Square 1979.
Charlotte Opera (Assoc.), N.C.: Carmen 1974; Rigoletto 1976.
Chicago Opera Theater: Susannah 1986; Turn of the Screw 1987.
University of Chicago: Mavra 1982.
Colorado Opera Festival: The Rake's Progress 1977; Carmen 1978; La Cenerentola 1978; Xerxes 1978; La Boheme 1980; Rigoletto 1982; Madama Butterfly 1985; Faust 1986.
“To each of his productions [Bakman] brought a fearsome intelligence, an understanding of the artists with whom he worked, and an intense musical sensitivity. His intense personal charm helped him in making all of those with whom he worked give more than they thought possible....He respected the contribution of every participant in a production, and was always appreciated for learning the names of every chorister and supernumerary with whom he worked. He could also be a difficult colleague because of his high and uncompromising artistic standards... his attention to detail and his insistence upon thorough and careful rehearsal was rewarded by the polish of the performances.” (From program notes by Speight Jenkins, General Director, Seattle Opera, January 1991.)