Born in York, Pennsylvania, Argento was educated at Peabody Conservatory after returning from serving in the military. Thanks to a Fulbright grant, he continued his studies in Florence with Dallapiccola, followed by a Ph.D. from Eastman.
Argento immediately moved to Minnesota after receiving his Ph.D. to teach theory at the University of Minnesota, and he has stayed there ever since. Many of Argento's operas have been premiered by Minnesota Opera, though he has also received commissions from New York City Opera and Washington Opera, as well as the Baltimore and St. Louis Symphonies.
Argento's music displays a particular lyrical strength, and his style lends itself to vocal music. Because of this talent, Argento has written many song cycles. His cycle From the Diaries of Virginia Woolf won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. Other important song cycles include Letters From Composers (1968--seven texts from different composers, from Bach to Chopin), The Andrée Expedition (1982--personal writings of ill-fated Swedish expeditioners who tried to reach the North Pole in a hot-air balloon), and Casa Guidi (1983--texts by Elizabeth Barrett Browning).
(Source: Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians)