Arroyo, Martina (1935—)

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Arroyo, Martina (1935—)

African-American soprano. Born in New York City on February 2, 1935; studied with Marinka Gurevich and at Hunter College with Joseph Turnau.

Co-winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions with Grace Bumbry (1958); debuted at the Metropolitan Opera (1959) as the Celestial Voice in Don Carlos; appeared in Vienna, Frankfurt, Berlin and Zurich (1963–68) and at Covent Garden (1968–80).

Martina Arroyo was one of several outstanding black singers who rose to prominence at the Metropolitan Opera during the 1960s and 1970s. Marian Anderson was the first African-American artist to perform at the Met in 1955, and her outstanding performance made the musical world aware of the prejudice that had long denied both singers and music lovers. After studying at Hunter College with Joseph Turnau, Arroyo won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions with Grace Bumbry in 1958 and made her debut at the Met in 1959. She excelled in the great Verdi operas that called for a lirico-spinto soprano voice, especially as Aïda, Amelia (in Un ballo in maschera), Leonora (in La forza del destino), and Donna Anna and Donna Elvira (in Don Giovanni).

Arroyo made a number of well-received recordings, displaying an extremely beautiful vocalism with a healthy, rounded tone. A bigvoiced soprano, her tone was dark, opulent, and soaring. Critics described Arroyo as a stunning vocalist. Criticism has been reserved for her stage performances rather than her singing as she was considered to be seldom dramatically involved. This might have been due to her own temperament as well as the rounded tone of her voice, which was basically sweet. Her early career was spent in Germany and Austria before she returned to the Met in 1965, where she performed until 1980.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia