NY: Operas, Radio, TV

At age 24, Miss Mayer won the Metropolitan Opera contest in Chicago and was selected for live broadcast on the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in New York City.

C Williams and M Mayer - Debuts NYCO 5-5-46

Margery Mayer’s New York City Center Opera debut as Suzuki in Madame Butterfly on May 5, 1946, was paired with the debut of Camilla Williams in the title role.

In 1946, Mayer débuted with the New York City Center Opera Company in an historic production of Madame Butterfly, singing the role of Suzuki opposite Camilla Williams, soprano, as Cio-Cio San, the first black woman to be cast by a major US opera company. During the next ten years Mayer became one of the leading contraltos at the New York City Center.

Her repertoire spanned some 40 operas including many highly acclaimed performances of Carmen, Aida, and Il Trovatore. Her Carmen was especially well received by the New York critics, e.g., “the finest hereabout.”  She also began singing on radio shows, in New York—WOR’s Serenade to America, the WOR Opera Theatre and NBC’s Let’s Go to the Opera.

Margery Mayer in the title Role of Bizet's Carmen. Photo: DeBellis, N.Y.

Margery Mayer in the title Role of Bizet’s Carmen. Photo: DeBellis, N.Y.

Miss Mayer was featured in the first American performances of Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral at Carnegie Hall; the NYCO Company’s productions of Tchaikovsky’s Golden Slipper, Wolf-Ferrari’s The Four Ruffians and Prokofieff’s The Love for Three Oranges. Miss Mayer, a renowned oratorio singer, sang many performances of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, Handel’s Messiah, and Verdi’s Requiem; and performed with leading symphony orchestras including those in New York, Chicago, Buffalo, Houston, Fort Wayne, and Kalamazoo.

Among her many interpretations of contemporary works were ten Broadway performances of The Medium, as Baba, with composer Gian Carlo Menotti directing; Amahl and the Night Visitors, as the Mother, at the New York City Center Opera; and Die Junge Magd at Chicago’s Symphony Hall with the composer Paul Hindemith conducting.

In addition, Mayer appeared in one of the earliest presentations of opera on television, the 1951 NBC-TV production of Puccini’s Il Tabarro. In 1957 she performed in the NBC-TV Opera Theater’s presentation of War and Peace, Prokofiev’s operatic adaptation of Tolstoy’s epic. In same year Mayer sang in the Douglas Moore opera Ballad of Baby Doe for ABC television. Later she sang six performances as Augusta with Beverly Sills as Baby Doe at Musicarnival, Cleveland.

A woman of prodigious energy, Mayer also sang for more than twenty years in a quartet for weekly Friday and Saturday Shabbat services at the newly formed Riverdale Temple in New York City where the first rabbi, Charles Schulman, came from the Glencoe, Illinois, synagogue where she had sung early in her career.

1950 – 1951 Radio City Music Hall – center stage in title role of a showcase on the opera ‘Carmen’  and, for two seasons, featured soloist in the ‘Glory of Easter’ Pageant.

image sources

  • MM Carmen DeBillis-1: DeBellis, N.Y.