Raskin, Judith

A lyric soprano whose voice was often described as  ravishing, Judith Raskin stressed purity of sound, clear diction, and the musical line. Born 21 June 1928, in New York, Judith grew up as an only child of teachers Harry A. Raskin and Lillian Mendelson Raskin. She studied both violin and piano as a child, but discovered singing, and sang in the glee club of Roosevelt High School in Yonkers. She studied voice with Anna Hamlin and acting with Ludwig Donath at Smith College, graduating 1949 with a BA, and along the way winning various scholarships and awards including the Harriet D. Barnum Award. Smith College later also awarded her an honorary MA in 1963. She won the Marian Anderson Scholarship for two years 1952 and 1953, and in 1956 won an award by the Musician s Club of New York. That same year, she sang the title role in The Ballad of Baby Doe, which premiered in Central City, Colorado.

Raskin sang with the New York Oratorio Society, and was soloist with the Symphony of the Air. Particularly noted performances were a June, 1956 performance of Die Fledermaus, and a July, 1957 La Boheme, both held in Central Park, NYC, Followed by Medea in Dallas in 1958. The TV production of Poulenc s Dialogues of the Carmelites in 1957 as Sister Constance gave her a national stage, as did the NBC Opera Company s Don Giovanni in April, 1960.

Ms. Raskin joined the New York City Opera Company, making her debut at City Center in 1959 as Despina in Cosi fan Tutte by Mozart. She later became known for her  perfect artistry in Mozart, according to Wintrop Sargeant.

From her debut at the Metropolitan Opera 23 February 1962 as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro, Raskin s repertoire ranged into about twenty operatic roles, especially baroque opera. She stayed at the Met ten years until 16 March 1972. She also sang at the Chicago Lyric and other opera houses.

In 1964, she received a Ford Foundation grant for a solo recital where she premiered pieces by Hugo Weisgall and Miriam Gideon. The New York Times reported  it was a triumph from start to finish that not only justified the praise given her& but also [suggests] that Miss Raskin may rank among the finest half-dozen lieder singers in the world. While she enjoyed an active recital life, especially in baroque music, unfortunately the amount of recital work that she would have preferred did not materialize during her mature career years.

She took advantage of other opportunities and recorded for numerous record labels and turned to teaching, becoming an instructor at Manhattan School of Music. She also taught at 92nd Street Y and at Mannes College. Raskin served on the music panel of the National Endowment of the Arts and as a judge for the Metropolitan Opera auditions.

Judith Raskin married the psychiatrist Dr. Raymond A. Raskin, a distant relative, on 11 July 1948. They had two children.

Raskin continued singing until just before her death. The Washington Post, reported of her April 1984 concert,  she revealed more of the poetry of the music than most singers do&  and did  some of her finest singing&  Although Raskin had survived breast cancer some twenty years earlier, she succumbed to ovarian cancer 21 December 1984 at age 56.
A version of this article will appear in the new edition of Encyclopedia Judaica. Sources include American National Biography; Current Biography, 1964; many articles from The New York Times; The Washington Post and other newspapers, various articles from journals such as Musical America and websites such as Judith Raskin bio.