Elaine Malbin (born May 24, 1932 in New York City) is an American soprano who had a prolific international career singing in operas, musicals, and concerts from 1949 through 1967. She appeared in a number of Broadway productions in the 1940s and 1950s and notably portrayed Marsinah in the original 1953 West End production of Kismet. She was a regular at the New York City Opera during the 1950s and 1960s and appeared with most of America's leading opera companies during this time as well, including the Houston Grand Opera and the San Francisco Opera. She also appeared in concert with several notable orchestras including the New York Philharmonic and the Philadelphia Orchestra. On the International stage she appeared at a number of opera houses and major music festivals in the United Kingdom, Italy, and France. She is perhaps best remembered for appearing in several opera roles live for television with the NBC Opera Theatre and for recording music with Mario Lanza for the 1951 film The Great Caruso.
Malbin retired at the height of her career in 1968 when her first daughter was born. She returned to the stage in 1979 but never achieved the level of success she enjoyed when she was younger. From 1980 up into the early 2000s she remained busy appearing in operas with smaller American companies and appearing in concerts with minor orchestras and music ensembles. Although she is mostly retired now, she still occasionally performs.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, Malbin started studying singing as a child and made her professional recital debut at the young age of 14 at New York City's Town Hall on March 31, 1945. That same year she began to perform regularly on the radio on WNEW singing popular songs to entertain the troops during the last year of World War II. She made her Carnegie Hall debut with The New York Pops on May 7, 1947 in a concert entitled "Viennese Night" which featured her singing numerous songs and arias by Viennese composers. She performed in concert with The New York Pops several more times over the next year. From 1948-1951 Malbin sang in the NBC Chorus that performed in concerts and recordings with the NBC Symphony Orchestra.
On May 15, 1949, Malbin made her professional opera debut with the San Carlo Opera Company as Musetta in Giacomo Puccini's La bohème. She made her Broadway debut on the following October 4 as Peep-Bo in Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado at the Mark Hellinger Theatre, notably the inaugural season of that theatre. She performed in two other Gilbert and Sullivan shows at that theatre through October 22: Edith in The Pirates of Penzance and the Plaintiff in Trial by Jury. Shortly thereafter she was cast as Violetta in C.B.S. Opera Television Theatre's production of Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata which was first broadcast on March 12, 1950.
Malbin began 1950 singing in a concert of opera arias at the Detroit Opera House with the Detroit Civic Opera. On April 18, 1950 she made her first appearance at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts singing with the Robin Hood Dell Orchestra in an evening honoring Margaret Truman. On July 12, 1950 she performed the role of Jenny in Kurt Weill's Down in the Valley in a concert version with the New York Philharmonic under conductor Maurice Levine. In September 1950, she sang her first role with the New York City Opera, Princess Ninetta in Sergei Prokofiev's The Love for Three Oranges. The following month she sang with the company in two more productions, singing Frasquita in Georges Bizet's Carmen and Zerlina in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni. On December 14, 1950 she debuted with the Philadelphia La Scala Opera Company as Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto. She closed out the year singing in more performances of Carmen with the New York City Opera, this time in the role of Micaela.
In March 1951 Malbin made her first performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra singing the soprano solos in a production of Bach's St Matthew Passion at Rutgers University. That same month she returned to the New York City Opera to portray Javotte in Jules Massenet's Manon. Later that year she sang Liu in Puccini's Turandot with the company and reprised the roles of Zerlina and Micaela. In October 1951 she appeared on television again as Nedda in NBC Opera Theatre's production of Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci.
Malbin returned to Broadway in October 1952 to portray Aida in the musical My Darlin' Aida which was adapted by Charles Friedman from Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, resetting the opera during the American Civil War. She portrayed the role through January 1953 when the show closed. In April 1953 she returned to the New York City Opera to sing her first Adele in Johann Strauss II Die Fledermaus. Shortly thereafter she made her United Kingdom debut portraying Marsinah in the original West End cast of Kismet at the Stoll Theatre. A tremendous success, the show ran for a total of 648 performances. She later reprised the role of Marsinah on Broadway in 1955 and portrayed the role in the show's first National tour.
In 1954 Malbin appeared with NBC Television Opera Theatre again starring in the title role of a critically acclaimed production of Richard Strauss's Salome and in the title role of a production of Puccini's Suor Angelica. That same year she made her first appearance at the Glyndebourne festival, portraying Colombina in Ferruccio Busoni's s Arlecchino and her debut at the Edinburgh Festival as Echo in Strauss's Ariadne on Naxos. Shortly thereafter she made the first of many appearances in France and in Italy. In 1955 Malbin portrayed the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly for the NBC Television Opera Theatre. The following year she portrayed the role of Joan of Arc in the world premiere of Norman Dello Joio's The Trial at Rouen which was composed for the NBC Television Opera Theatre. She appeared in two more television productions with the NBC Television Opera Theatre the following year, Violetta in La Traviata and Blanche in Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites. On February 10, 1958 she performed the role of Mimi in La Bohème for the inaugural of the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company opposite John Alexander as Rodolfo. The following October she made her debut with the San Francisco Opera singing the soprano solos in Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. In 1955, for NBC Opera Theatre, she performed the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly.
In 1961 Malbin made her debut with the Opera Company of Boston and sang for the first time with the Philadelphia Grand Opera Company as Madama Butterfly. In 1962 she made her debut with the Pittsburgh Opera and sang the title role in Massenet's Manon for the first time with the New York City Opera. That year was also her first appearance at the Scottish Opera where she sang Madama Butterfly.
From 1963-1964 Malbin toured the United States with the San Carlo Opera Company portraying the roles of Madama Butterfly and Mimi. She also made her first appearance at the Houston Grand Opera in 1967 singing Madama Butterfly. That same year she portrayed her first opera role with the San Francisco Opera, Leila in Bizet's Les Pêcheurs de Perles.
In 1967 Malbin met and married her husband, George Emanuel, and a year later they had their eldest daughter, Amy Emanuel. At this point she decided to retire her career to focus on being a wife and mother and took an almost twelve-year absence from the opera stage. In 1969 her youngest daughter was born. She returned to the opera stage in January 1979 singing Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. She returned to New York City for a lauded recital at Alice Tully Hall the following October. Malbin, however, was unable to excite the interest of the major opera companies like she was hoping to and spent the 1980s and 1990s appearing with minor American opera companies. One of her last appearances on the opera stage was in 2000 as the Barroness in Dicapo Opera's production of Samuel Barber's Vanessa. Although she no longer appears in opera, Malbin still occasionally performs in concert.
- N.S. (April 1, 1945). "SOPRANO, 14, MAKES TOWN HALL DEBUT; Elaine Malbin, Brooklyn Schoolgirl, Delivers Numbers With Surprising Poise". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "For Service Men and Women". New York Times. March 31, 1945. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "VIENNESE MUSIC AT POP; Elaine Malbin, John Hendrik Carnegie Hall Soloists". New York Times. May 14, 1948. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "VIENNESE POP CONCERT; Cortez Conducts Program -Malbin and Chabay Soloists". New York Times. June 4, 1948. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Kutsch, K. J.; Riemens, Leo (1969). A concise biographical dictionary of singers: from the beginning of recorded sound to the present. Translated from German, expanded and annotated by Harry Earl Jones. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company. ISBN 0-8019-5516-5.
- C. H. (May 16, 1949). "MISS MALBIN SINGS 'LA BOHEME' ROLE; Makes Debut With San Carlo as Musetta -- Mina Cravi Is Mimi, Poleri Is Rodolfo". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- L. F. (October 5, 1949). "Return of Gilbert and Sullivan". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Brooks Atkinson (October 11, 1949). "Return AT THE THEATRE; Mr. Chartock's Version of 'The Pirates of Penzance' Arrives at the Mark Hellinger". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "THE C.B.S. OPERA TELEVISION THEATRE". New York Times. March 12, 1950. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "MISS TRUMAN HONORED; Guest at the Robin Hood Dell's 21st Anniversary Dinner". New York Times. April 18, 1950. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "KURT WEILL PROGRAM OFFERED AT STADIUM". New York Times. July 13, 1950. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (September 29, 1950). "CITY CENTER GIVES PROKOFIEFP OPERA; IN CITY OPERA". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (October 2, 1950). "RESNIK IS CARMEN WITH CITY OPERA; Metropolitan Soprano Assumes Role on Brief Notice-- Torres Sings Escamillo". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (October 5, 1950). "CITY OPERA HEARD IN 'DON GIOVANNI'; AIDS STAGE RELIEF". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (November 13, 1950). "CITY OPERA ENDS SEASON; 'Carmen' and 'Boheme' Play to Capacity Houses at Center". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "'MATTHEW' ORATORIO IS GIVEN AT RUTGERS". New York Times. March 24, 1951. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "'Manon' Given at City Center". New York Times. March 29, 1951. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "TELEVISION OPERA AND DRAMA PREMIERES". New York Times. September 30, 1951. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Funke, Lewis (July 27, 1952). "NEWS AND GOSSIP GATHERED ON THE RIALTO; Elaine Malbin Chosen for Leading Role In 'My Darlin' Aida' -- Other Items". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (April 9, 1953). "AT THE OPERA". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (May 9, 1954). "Offers Strauss Work in Brilliant Form -Miss Malbin in Title Role". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (December 6, 1954). "N.B.C. THEATRE STARS IN 'SISTER ANGELICA'". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Ross Parmenter (December 5, 1955). "N. B. C. IS FORMING OPERA TOUR UNIT; Sarnoff Announces Plan During English Telecast of 'Madame Butterfly'". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Howard Taubman (April 9, 1956). "Music: New Dello Joio Opera on TV; 'The Trial at Rouen' Presented by N.B.C. Noel Coward as Guest Contemporary Works Brilliant Musician". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Art Selby (April 21, 1957). "LOVE DISPLAYS ITS MANY FACETS IN TWO MELODRAMAS AND GRAND OPERA ON TELEVISION THIS WEEK". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- "Elaine Malbin Gets Role". New York Times. August 19, 1958. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- San Francsico Opera Archives
- Rona Kavee (March 18, 1979). "Opera's Siren Song Calls Elaine Malbin". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Donal Henahan (October 16, 1979). "Music: Elaine Malbin Returns to Stage". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.
- Anthony Tommassini (February 16, 2000). "OPERA REVIEW; Like a Lover Reincarnated, 'Vanessa' Boldly Returns". New York Times. Retrieved May 9, 2009.