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Martina Arroyo
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    (February 2, 1937- )
    Born in Manhattan, New York
    Principal soprano for the Zurich Opera (1963-65) and Metropolitan Opera (1965-78)
    Performed at the Met 199 times
    Best-known for portraying the heroines of operas by Verdi and Puccini
    She did not take her opera training seriously until her teacher threatened to end their voice lessons. (In fairness, when she started, none of the major opera houses had hired a black singer, so she was not expecting to make a living from singing.)
    She claimed she got her big break at the Met – substituting for an ailing Birgit Nilsson in ‘Aida’ (1965) – because manager Rudolf Bing hoped the disappointed crowds would be less likely to throw things at a complete unknown than one of the Met regulars.
    During a production of ‘Madama Butterfly,’ she referred to herself as ‘Madama Butterball.’
    While waiting for her breakthrough in opera, she worked as a social worker at the East End Welfare Center.
    She won the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Audition of the Air’ competition (1958), winning $1,000 and a scholarship to study at the Met’s Kathryn Long School.
    She was appointed to the National Council of the Arts (1976-82).
    She was co-author of the National Endowment of the Arts’ task force report on music education in the US.
    She was known for her lack of diva attitude.
    When a doorman at the Met mistakenly greeted her as ‘Miss Price,’ she merely replied, ‘No, honey, I’m the other one.’

Credit: C. Fishel

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