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The Lyric Soprano

Lawrence Bush
June 20, 2017

Renowned classical singer Judith Raskin, who brought her fine lyric soprano voice and acting skills to audiences throughout America through innovative uses of television as well as by promoting local opera companies, was born in Yonkers, New York on this date in 1928. Raskin’s singing talent blossomed when she was an undergraduate at Smith College, and she won the Marian Anderson Award for 1952 and 1953. She became nationally known in 1957 when she sang in the televised American premier performance of Poulenc’s “Dialogues des Carmelites,” and she made her debut on the Met stage five years later in the role of Susanna in Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” Raskin, writes Pauline Eisenstein Baker at the Jewish Women’s Archive, “developed into one of the outstanding musical artists of the 20th century. Her impeccable musicianship, convincing acting, and striking beauty kept her in constant demand as an opera performer, as a recitalist, and as a teacher, and she was famous for the absence of egocentricity often found in prima donnas.” Raskin was deeply involved in recording, teaching, and promoting classical music before her life was cut short by cancer in 1984. To hear her singing two excerpts from “The Marriage of Figaro” in 1965, look below.

“I’ve tried to make up in depth what I don’t have in quantity. There is a kind of singer who has a poetic approach to music rather than a purely vocal approach.” --Judith Raskin

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.