The American mezzo-soprano and contralto, Anna Kaskas-Lokot, was born in Richfield, Connecticut to Lithuanian parents, and began singing in Hartford as a choir girl at Holy Trinity Catholic Church. She won a two-year scholarship at the Hartford Conservatory of Music, and received there a performer’s degree in voice with honors in 1931 (most probably earlier). Upon graduation she received a scholarship for further training in Europe. There she made her debut in 1930 at the Opera House of Kaunas (Kovno) as Ulrica in Verdi’s Ballo in maschera. The Lithuanian government gave her two-year grant to study and perform in Rome, Milan, Genoa, and Nice. She continued her education with the teachers Ferdin and Ferrara in Milan, and made her Italian debut in 1930 at the Theater of Pavia in a small role in Francesca da Rimini by Zandonai. Back in North America, she completed her training with Enrico Rosati in New York. In 1936, she entered the first Metropolitan “Auditions of the Air” and was co-winner over 700 other aspirants, which led to her joining the Metropolitan Opera company.
This was the beginning Anna Kaskas’ 14-year career with the Met (1936-1950) – in which she established herself as a valued and popular member of the company. She made his debut at this house in 1936 as Maddalena in Rigoletto. She performed at the Met in 52 contralto and mezzo-soprano roles, and was valued as a dependable house contralto for smaller roles like Maddalena in Rigoletto, the nurse in Boris Godunov, Cieca in La Gioconda by Ponchielli, Mamma Lucia in Cavalleria Rusticana, Erda in the operas of the Ring Cycle, Albina in Thais by Massenet, as well as the the title hero in Orpheus by Gluck, and many smaller roles. There were some novelties along the way, including the role of Mercurius in J.S. Bach’s secular cantata Phoebus and Pan (BWV 201), which the conductor Sir Thomas Beecham dressed up for the stage as part of a double bill when he made his company debut in 1942. During this period she was also a highly respected oratorio singer and appeared as soloist with the major American orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra (including Missa Solemnis by L.v. Beethoven under Serge Koussevitzky), Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and with the orchestras of Kansas City, Denver, and Houston Symphony Orchestra. She also performed at the Tanglewood and Chautauqua Festivals.
When Anna Kaskas left the Met in 1950, she toured as a recitalist for two years, then devoted herself to teaching She embarked on her teaching career in 1952, when she joined the voice faculty of Indiana University’s School of Music, where she remained for five years. She then accepted a full professorship at the Florida State University School of Music (1957-1959). In 1959, she joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, and chaired the voice department from 1963 until 1965. Her summer activities included teaching at Brigham Young University (1954) and giving master-classes at Temple University’s Ambler Music Festival (1968-1969). Among her pupils were Sylvia Anderson (mezzo), Carol Murphy Streator (soprano) and John Maloy (tenor). She judged various competitions, such as the Ford Foundation Competitions for Professional Artists (1962), the Metropolitan Opera Auditions (1960-1964), and the Connecticut Opera Guild Competition (1964). She retired from the Eastman voice faculty in 1974, becoming professor emerita.
In 1942 Anna Kaskas married Anthony J. Lokot Jr., who died in 1991. She died in 1998 at her home in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania (at age 91NY Times). She was survived by a son, Anthony, of Pittsford, New York; a granddaugther, and a sister.
Recordings: Columbia (one of the Valkyries in a recording of the last act of Walküre with Helen Traubel as Brünnhilde; Missa Solemnis under Serge Koussevitzky). She can also be heard on Disco Corp. in a complete recording of Cavalleria Rusticana (with her as Lola); on EJS as Cieca in La Gioconda and Erda in Rheingold (1945); and on Walhall as 3rd Lady in Zauberflöte.
Courtesy: Bach Cantatas Website