V2469. MARTINA ARROYO, w.Joseph Eger Cond. American S.O.: DER FREISCHÜTZ - Leise, leise, fromme Weise (Weber); ANDROMACHE’S FAREWELL (Samuel Barber) [Creatrice, 4 April, 1963, Philharmonic Hall], Live Performance, 13 Nov., 1967, Carnegie Hall; w.Ormandy Cond. Philadelphia Orch. & Rutgers University Choir: GLORIA (Poulenc), Live Performance, 3 May, 1968, Carnegie Hall. (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-341. [Excellent sound in the Carnegie Hall acoustic, recorded on an Uher recorder with Sennheiser mike from a choice location in the Hall, far from audience members, virtually unmarred by audience noise. ANDROMACHE’S FAREWELL, for soprano and orchestra, was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in celebration of its opening season at Lincoln Center where it was premiered on 4 April, 1963, with Martina Arroyo as soprano soloist and Thomas Schippers conducting.] Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
“Born in Harlem, the daughter of a Puerto Rican father and an African-American mother, Ms. Arroyo made her début in 1961 in a small role, the Celestial Voice in DON CARLO. During the 1961-62 season, she proved a trouper at the company by singing various supporting roles in Wagner’s RING cycle, including the Third Norn, Woglinde the Rhinemaiden and Ortlinde the Valkyrie.
After a three-year absence, her Met breakthrough came in February 1965, when she sang her first Aïda. That October in DON CARLO she stepped way up from the Celestial Voice to Elizabeth of Valois.
In all, she would sing some 200 performances at the Met. Today, Ms. Arroyo still contributes to opera by running the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which presents young singers in thoroughly prepared and staged productions of central repertory works. She remains an inspiring role model to emerging artists.”
- THE NEW YORK TIMES, 16 February, 2016
“In March 1958, Arroyo, along with Grace Bumbry, was among the winners of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air. Met general manager Rudolf Bing took a continuing interest in her, and her Met début came the following year, as the Celestial Voice in DON CARLO. As a young lirico-spinto, she performed small parts for three seasons; during this period, she also sang Aïda under Herbert von Karajan in Vienna and Karl Böhm in Berlin. Her ambitions grew, and eventually she left the Met for a time and made Europe the center of her career, with considerable success. On 6 February, 1965, she made what came to be called her ‘second’ Met début, filling in for an ailing Birgit Nilsson in AÏDA. That evening's audience experienced a great sense of discovery, and Martina went on to become a favorite in the Italian repertory. It was the beginning of her glory years as a singer. For a time, she was a fixture on Met opening nights’ opening performance at the Met three times, starring in ERNANI in 1970-71, DON CARLO in 1971-72 and IL TROVATORE in 1973-74. She had her greatest success with AIDA, Leonora in both TROVATORE and LA FORZA DEL DESTINO and Elena in I VESPRI SICILIANI - all of which took advantage of the soaring, plaintive quality in her voice. Her rendition of FORZA's ‘Madre, pietosa Vergine’ achieved a forlorn quality few other singers ever matched. There was a sheen, a gleam to her sound that made many sopranos in the same repertoire sound ordinary and uninvolved by comparison, and when she finished off a line, it seemed to linger in the air for seconds afterward.
During the 1970s, when television variety and talk shows were still welcoming classical musicians, Martina was a popular guest on THE TONIGHT SHOW, where she showed America that she was a hilarious raconteuse. She further punctured the cliché of the stuffy diva when she appeared as a guest on the ABC sitcom THE ODD COUPLE. On a 1970 Met intermission feature, she had her colleagues Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne doubled over with her hilarious responses to every topic of conversation.
Later, she embarked on a teaching career at Indiana University. Frustrated by the school's lack of emphasis on total role preparation, she made that goal the cornerstone of the Martina Arroyo Foundation, which gives detailed, intensive instruction to talented young singers who desperately need it.
I don't think that Martina's good humor is a mask for anything; I think its source is a happy and rewarding life….It was Mrs. Arroyo [Martina’s mother] who, back on 111th Street, used to take over for the apartment building's boozy superintendent and wash the floors. ‘She put Clorox on everything’, Martina recalled. ‘It's amazing I'm not white’.
Most of all, what I admire about Martina is her large-spiritedness. There's no meanness or pettiness about her. She has created a life that is only to be admired. It's a pleasure to sit at her dinner table. It's a pleasure just thinking about her. All her life, she has answered in the affirmative, and the rest of us are better off because of it. Martina Arroyo has reached her status as one of the leaders of New York's arts world in the best of all possible ways - by seeking out the best in herself, and in others, at all times.
- Brian Kellow, OPERA NEWS
"One of the most enduring and memorable discoveries of my early opera-going years was this outstanding soprano, Martina Arroyo. Having heard her in recital, in concert and at the 'old' and the 'new' Met, in a great variety of repertoire, I can attest to her magnificence in any material she chose to sing, and that if it hadn't been for the Met's and Leontyne Price's iron grip on Aïda, Arroyo would have reigned universally supreme in this role. Price’s shimmering top, especially early in her career, was indeed unforgettable, but Arroyo had that as well, combined with a beautifully aligned voice and a true Verdi line. Whether it was in Verdi, Puccini, von Weber or Barber, she truly had the voice and style for it all! Her 'Domine Deus' & 'Agnus Dei' from Poulenc's GLORIA [above] display her luscious voice to perfection! Utterly ravishing!”
- J. R. Peters