Episode 183. Martina Arroyo

Episode 183. Martina Arroyo



Last week on Feburary 2, the beloved African American soprano Martina Arroyo turned 86 years old. Although the Countermelody birthday tribute to Ms. Arroyo is a week late, it is nonetheless profoundly heartfelt. I have always valued the artistry and voice of this artist who often referred to herself as “The Other One” (because she was so frequently confused with today’s birthday diva, Leontyne Price). In preparing this episode, however, I flipped over into fan girl mode: was there anything that Martina Arroyo could not do? Of course she was celebrated as one of the premiere Verdi sopranos of her day (or, indeed, of the twentieth century), and there are ample examples on the episode that give testament to her supremacy in that repertoire. But she was also an intrepid performer of contemporary music, creating important works by both Karlheinz Stockhausen and Samuel Barber. Her performances of baroque music, while very much following an earlier style of performance practice, are vivid and insightful. Her affinity with French grand opera style is off the charts, as evidenced by an excerpt from Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine. She also could have pursued a path as a Mozart and Strauss singer, and selections by both of these composers prove her mastery of this genre as well. She also had the power to be a full-fledged dramatic soprano, as shown by her live performances of Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder and the title role in Puccini’s Turandot. And yet her subtlety as a recitalist is shown in live and studio Lieder performances. And the fervor and vigor of her performance of spirituals is a thing of joy. This episode is full of surprises but one thing is not surprising at all: the degree of dedication and commitment of this artist, which continues to this day with the performance and education initiative of the Martina Arroyo Foundation.

The episode begins with a brief tribute to Burt Bacharach, who died yesterday at the age of 94.


Burt Bacharach, Hal David: A House Is Not a Home. Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield [from television special – Another Evening with Burt Bacharach, 1970]

George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin: Summertime (Porgy and Bess). Martina Arroyo, Sixten Ehrling, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir [Swedish television 09.X.1960]

Giuseppe Verdi, Antonio Ghislanzoni: O patria mia (Aida). Martina Arroyo, Max Rudolf, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [live 1958]; Martina Arroyo, Fausto Cleva, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [live 31.V.1971]

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Victor Hugo]: Ernani, involami (Ernani). Martina Arroyo, unknown conductor, orchestra, and venue

Giacomo Puccini, Luigi Illica, Giuseppe Giacosa [after David Belasco]: Un bel dì vedremo (Madama Butterfly). Martina Arroyo, Kurt Eichhorn, Münchner Rundfunkorchester [1980]

Martina Arroyo and Sherrill Milnes as the Macbeths, Metropolitan Opera 1973.

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave, Andrea Maffei [after William Shakespeare]: Una macchia è qui tutt’ora! (Macbeth). Martina Arroyo, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra [live 03.II.73]

Giacomo Puccini, Giuseppe Adami, Renato Simoni [after Carlo Gozzi]: Straniero, ascolta! (Turandot). Martina Arroyo, Ermanno Mauro, Nicola Rescigno, Orchestra of the Canadian Opera Company [live Toronto 03.XII.1983]

Alessandro Stradella: Per pietà. Martina Arroyo, Donal Nold [1961]

Joaquín Nín, Anonymous Poet: Polo. Martina Arroyo, Donal Nold [1961]

Johannes Brahms, Paul Heyse: Mädchenlied [Auf die Nacht in der Spinnstub’n], Op. 107/5. Martina Arroyo, Donal Nold [1961]

Franz Schubert, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Ganymed, D. 544. Martina Arroyo, Leonard Hokanson [live Schwetzingen 25.V.68]

Gioacchino Rossini: Duetto buffo di due gatti. Martina Arroyo, Régine Crespin, unknown pianist [telecast ca. 1974]

Régine Crespin

Johann Sebastian Bach: Ricetti gramezza e pavento (Non sa che sia dolore, BWV 209). Martina Arroyo, Vittorio Gui, Orchestra del Teatro la Fenice [live 07.XII.63]

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Everything surrounding me is near and far at once (Momente). Martina Arroyo, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Alfons Kontarsky, Aloys Kontarsky, Mitglieder des Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchesters, Kölner Rundfunkchor [from 1966 documentary film]

Samuel Barber, Euripedes (translated by John Patrick Creagh): Oh dearest embrace, sweet breathing of your body (Andromache’s Farewell, Op. 39). Martina Arroyo, Thomas Schippers, New York Philharmonic [1963]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: Don Ottavio, son morta!… Or sai chi l’onore (Don Giovanni). Martina Arroyo, Stuart Burrows, Colin Davis, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden [1973]

Giacomo Meyerbeer, Eugène Scribe: Sur mes genoux, fils du soleil (L’Africaine). Martina Arroyo, Gerd Albrecht, Orchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks [live Monaco 1977]

Ludwig Van Beethoven: Nunc dormit in tranquilla pace (Cantata on the Death of Emperor Joseph II, WoO 87/6). Martina Arroyo, Thomas Schippers, New York Philharmonic [1965]

Arnold Schoenberg, Jens Peter Jacobsen: Du sendest mir einen Liebesblick (Gurre-Lieder). Martina Arroyo, János Ferencsik, Danish State Radio Symphony and Concert Orchestra [1968]

Richard Strauss, Hermann Hesse: Frühling (Vier letzte Lieder). Martina Arroyo, Günter Wand, Kölner Rundfunk-Sinfonie-Orchester [live Köln 15-16.VI.67]

Traditional Spiritual: I Got a Robe. Martina Arroyo, Donal Nold [1961]

Traditional Spiritual: Little David, Play on Your Harp. Martina Arroyo, Leonard Hokanson [live Schwetzingen 25.V.68]

Traditional Spiritual, arr. Harry T. Burleigh: I Stood on the River of Jordan. Martina Arroyo, Dorothy Maynor, Choirs of the Harlem School of the Arts and St. James Presbyterian Church [1974]

Giuseppe Verdi, Francesco Maria Piave [after Angel Perez de Saavedra]: Me pellegrina ed orfana (La forza del destino). Martina Arroyo, Lamberto Gardelli, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra [1970]

Giuseppe Verdi, Antonio Somma [after Eugène Scribe]: M’ami! M’ami!… O qual soave brivido (Un ballo in maschera). Martina Arroyo, Luciano Pavarotti, Charles Mackerras, San Francisco Opera Orchestra [live 27.X.71]

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