The compositions of Ronald Perera (b. Boston Dec. 25, 1941, d. Yarmouth Port Aug. 4, 2023) include operas, song cycles, chamber, choral and orchestral works, and several works for instruments or voices with electronic sounds. He is perhaps best known for his settings of texts by authors as diverse as Dickinson, Joyce, Grass, Sappho, Cummings, Shakespeare, Francis of Assisi, Melville, Ferlinghetti and Updike.
Perera studied composition with Leon Kirchner at Harvard and electronic music with Gottfried Michael Koenig at the University of Utrecht. He also worked independently with Randall Thompson in choral music and with Mario Davidovsky in electronic music.
His 2006 work Why I Wake Early, eight poems of Mary Oliver for mixed chorus, string quartet and piano, received its New England premiere with the Chatham Chorale of Cape Cod in November, 2007, and its New York premiere with the New Amsterdam Singers in March, 2008. His cantata The Golden Door, based on Ellis Island archives, was premiered in New York by the New Amsterdam Singers in 1999. The Outermost House was premiered on Cape Cod in 1991 by the Chatham Chorale. It was first performed in New York in 1994 by the New Amsterdam Singers.
Perera taught at Syracuse University, Dartmouth College and, from 1971 until 2002, at Smith College, where he held the Elsie Irwin Sweeney Chair in Music.