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Martina Arroyo (b1937)


Arroyo’s father was Puerto Rican and her mother hailed from South Carolina. She grew up in New York City, where she studied dance and was taught the piano by her mother. She gained a BA in Romance languages from Hunter College in 1956 having also taken singing lessons while a student, first with Joseph Turnau and subsequently with Marinka Gurewich, who proved to be a major professional influence. Arroyo taught English at the Bronx High School, later becoming a social worker at the East End Welfare Center; but in 1958 she won the Metropolitan Opera’s Audition of the Air competition, part of the prize being a scholarship to the Met’s Kathryn Long School, which Arroyo took up. She made her operatic début in a concert performance of Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral at Carnegie Hall in September 1958 and was immediately hailed by the New York Times as a singer of ‘remarkable potential’. Her stage début came in February 1959 as the Celestial Voice in Don Carlos at the Met, beginning a long association with this distinguished opera house; and at about this time also she was taken on by the concert manager Thea Dispeker, who offered to represent her without fee until she was established.

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