I have no musical talent beyond pushing the buttons on my MP3 player but I love music and I am a big fan of both opera and classical music. Recently, I had the pleasure of working with a collection of papers from Martha Lipton, a famous mezzo-soprano who was later a Professor of Voice at the Jacobs School of Music.
Born in New York City on April 6, 1913, Lipton won a scholarship to the Julliard School where she received her formal training. Graduating in 1942, she was invited to join the worldwide music fraternity Delta Omicron as an honorary member and made her debut with the New Opera Company in Manhattan playing Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades. In 1944 she began a prolific career with the Metropolitan Opera which continued until 1961 and included over 400 performances. Under the direction of famous conductors such as Leonard Bernstein, Leopold Stokowski, and Bruno Walter, she sang with both the New York and Philadelphia Philharmonic Orchestras. Her most popular recording was Handel’s Messiah with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – and while this recording I’m sure is wonderful, I’m sure that it had to be something entirely different live. I have had the opportunity to hear the Tabernacle Choir perform in Salt Lake City and was awestruck! Another notable role in her career was Augusta in the American opera Ballad of Baby Doe by Douglas Moore at the Central City Opera House in Colorado. The opera became so popular that it was later performed at the Met. In total, Lipton performed three dozen roles in four languages.
In 1960, Lipton accepted a position on the teaching faculty of the Indiana University School of Music. Additionally during her tenure she graced the university campus with numerous performances, most notable being Puccini’s Aida in which she played the role of Amneris in July and August of 1963. With a cast of over 600 including a full orchestra, the production was so large that the stage was built in the old Memorial Stadium! The photographs shown here give a sense of just how large the production actually was!
The Martha Lipton papers include many wonderful promotional photographs which document the beautifully detailed costumes she wore in her performances as well as a hand fan that she used in Rigoletto. That was a fun discovery!
Lipton was a gifted teacher who was much loved by her students. While she officially retired from teaching in 1983 with the rank of professor emeritus, she continued to teach part-time until her death on November 28, 2006.