The American mezzo-soprano and music pedagogue, Martha Lipton, won a scholarship to the Juilliard School and made her debut as Pauline in Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades for the New Opera Company in Manhattan in 1941.
In February 1944 Martha Lipton sang Nancy in Flotow’s Martha during the inaugural season of New York City Opera; she made her Met debut about seven months later, on November 27, 1944, as Siebel in Charles Gounod’s Faust on opening night of the 1944-1945 season. She went on to appear 401 times in 17 seasons at the Metropolitan Opera. She was a hit as the prostitute Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto though over the course of her career her most frequent assignments at the Met were as Annina in Der Rosenkavalier and Emilia, Desdemona’s maid from Verdi’s Otello. A 1948 performance of the latter, which starred Ramon Vinay, Licia Albanese, and Leonard Warren, was the first complete opera ever telecast. She also performed as Mrs. Sedley in the Mets premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes in 1948, Mother Goose in the company’s first performance of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in 1953, and Madame Larina in the 1957 Peter Brook staging of Eugene Onegin. Her final appearance at the Met was as the Innkeeper in Modest Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov on January 7, 1961, but she returned to sing as an honored guest for the galas marking the closing of the Old Met in 1966 and the company’s centennial in 1983. Lipton also sang in Europe, and earned praise in important European venues including London, Paris, and Vienna. In 1954 she sang the title role in B. Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia for the English Opera Group. On July 7, 1956 she originated the role of Augusta Tabor in the world premiere of Douglas Moore’s seminal opera The Ballad of Baby Doe at the Central City Opera House in Colorado, repeating the performance the following April with New York City Opera.
Martha Lipton was active as a recitalist and concert soloist, and during the 1950’s as a recording artist for Columbia Records. Her recordings with Columbia included Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, featuring Leonard Bernstein leading the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and Bruckner’s Te Deum led by Bruno Walter. L.v. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Bruno Walter conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. With Aaron Copland at the piano, she recorded his Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson. One of her best known recordings was her George Frideric Handel’s Messiah highly regarded 1958-1959 recording with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. She can also be heard on a number of archived Metropolitan broadcasts (including Johann Strauss’ Die Fledermaus; I. Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress (Fritz Reiner, 1953), P.I. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin; G. Verdi’s Otello, Macbeth, Falstaff (Fritz Reiner, 1949), Rigoletto, La forza del destino, R. Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Götterdaemmerung, W.A. Mozart’s The Magic Flute; R. Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier (Fritz Reiner, 1949), Elektra (Fritz Reiner, 1949/1952/1953), Arabella; Charles Gounod’s Faust; Pietro Mascagni’s Cavaleria Rusticana; Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chènier; G. Puccini’s La bohème; Georges Bizet’s Carmen).
Martha Lipton was professor emeritus at Indiana University’s School of Music, whose voice faculty she joined in 1960. She retired from full-time teaching to Professor Emerita status in 1983, but continued teaching part-time until her death. She died in Bloomington, Indiana on November 28, 2006, at age 93.
Courtesy: Bach Cantatas Website