Researchers reveal impact of Jews in development of US opera

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Researchers reveal impact of Jews in development of US opera

Ahead of Jewish American Heritage Month the Center for Jewish History delved into the archives to learn about how Jews 'made significant contributions'

Robert Merrill
Robert Merrill

Researchers have shone a stage-light on the impact of Jews in the development of US opera from 1880 to 1940 ahead of Jewish American Heritage Month this year.

The Center for Jewish History (CJH) unveiled something to sing about this week, after historians delved into the archives to learn how Jews “made significant contributions to the American opera scene”.

Samantha M. Cooper investigated the lives of numerous men and women of Jewish descent who pursued careers as opera singers in New York in the six decades before the Second World War. “Despite the presence of a multitude of Jewish performers, a kind of myth persists that the categories of ‘Jews’ and ‘opera’ are somehow separate,” she said. “The goal of my doctoral studies is to explore and dispel this misreading.”

Cooper unearthed 80 European and American-born singers from Jewish families who sang in New York City, the epicentre of the American opera scene. All had to have performed at least one time in America’s cosmopolitan capital. Of the American-born performers she studied, 20 were born in New York state, including Beverly Sills, Robert Merrill (pictured) and Estelle Liebling.

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