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Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney

Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney

May 14, 1948 - Sep 5, 2021

Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney - Obituary


armen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney Soprano Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney passed away on September 5, 2021. A loving wife to Patrick, mother of Nicole Simone(Barry) and Camille Adriana(Aaron), grandmother of Asia, Micah and Austin, performing artist-teacher, Carmen is survived by a host of relatives, friends and colleagues as well as performing partners. Carmen, a proud native of Washington, DC, was born on a rainy Friday evening on May, 14, 1948 to John W. and Clementine E. Balthrop (née Jordan) at the Columbia Hospital for Women. At that moment, a star was born and shone brightly for the next 73 years. The only daughter and youngest of the Balthrop’s four children, Carmen enjoyed a loving, if not indulgent relationship with her family and was sheltered and protected by her brothers. One day, when Carmen was in elementary school, her father—who repaired radios as a hobby—was in his basement working as the radio broadcast a live performance from the Metropolitan Opera. Carmen, just eight years old, heard the music and, extremely captivated and transfixed, ran down the steps to ask: “Who is that singing?” Her father informed Carmen that the singer was Leontyne Price, an opera singer, and one of the few black women at the time to take lead on some of the world’s most prestigious stages. Right then and there, Carmen declared: “I want to be an opera singer.” And from that tender age she embarked on a mission to become an international opera star. As a child, and continuing into adulthood, Carmen would mimic voices and accents, inadvertently developing an ‘ear,’ her voice, and performing skills. She was quite a mimic. On a mission to greatness, rarely was Carmen ever idle and one would almost invariably encounter Carmen relentlessly improving her technique or improving her health. Resolute about her desire to sing, Carmen received her parents’ wholehearted support; they made numerous sacrifices to see Carmen succeed in her chosen vocation. Carmen attended Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, DC, where she honed her skills as a performer and, in her senior year, won her school’s Thespian award. Although a testament to her dramatic ability, Carmen’s desire to sing remained strong. At the first opportunity, she auditioned for admission into the University of Maryland’s School of Music. Having had limited exposure to classical voice repertoire, Carmen offered “The Star-Spangled Banner” as her audition piece, which was enthusiastically received and marked the beginning of her illustrious performing career. At the University of Maryland, Carmen performed with the elite Madrigal Singers. They performed extensively, at home and abroad, including a performance at the White House, where she danced with President Lyndon Johnson and got to show off dancing skills she had learned from her brother, Myron. Upon graduating from the University of Maryland, Carmen attended the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, and within one year attained her Master’s degree. During that year, she excelled and performed leading roles in four operas. This tenacity led Carmen to being one of the last first place winners for the Metropolitan Opera Competition which launched her career in 1975. She graced the world’s stage in her debut as Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte with the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. From there, she set the opera world ablaze in major opera houses and symphony orchestras all over the world: San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Washington Opera, Canadian Opera, Deutsche Oper (Berlin), Teatro La Fenice (Venice), the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the National Symphony. Carmen is immortalized in the countless performances she gave and the various recordings she created over her lifetime, many of which received critical acclaim in her field. Even so, when Carmen was not performing, she was teaching and constantly learning. Carmen would often tell the story of how she never wanted to be a teacher. Her mother advised Carmen to have a ‘back-up’ for singing, though she supported Carmen’s desire to be a world class musician. At first, Carmen resisted teaching, as she wanted to focus on her performing career. But, being a deeply spiritual and God-fearing woman, Carmen discovered one day that life’s circumstances and, perhaps, divine intervention brought her to a position at the University of Maryland, one which she held for the next 36 years. As a teacher, Carmen made an impact on the lives of hundreds of students, many at the onset of their own careers, and guided them to trust their talent, connect with their bodies, and fearlessly embrace their art. Carmen would later be inducted into the University of Maryland’s Alumni Hall of Fame and go on to hold several positions of note in the School of Music at College Park. Carmen’s vocal signature was never loud or bombastic. Rather, she was an “electrifying… consummate performer” (The Washington Post) and “a voice of power and uncommon tonal purity” (The New York Times). In addition to possessing “a rapturously beautiful voice” (The Miami Herald), Carmen was a rapturously beautiful and glamorous human being. Carmen was a history maker. In 1975, after the debut of the production with the Houston Grand Opera, she made her historical debut on Broadway as the lead in Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha, a role Carmen developed, defined, and made famous: her signature role. Being a multi-tasker and always on a quest to succeed, Carmen masterfully juggled career and motherhood. Both Nicole Simone and Camille Adriana were born while Carmen pursued her career, performing and traveling, extensively. In fact, Camille was only nine days old when Carmen bundled her along and embarked on a six-month, 17-city tour of the Houston Grand Opera’s production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Nicole and Camille grew up as Carmen’s companions on the road, always ready to travel, carry bags or join their mother on stage. Carmen’s death has left Patrick bereft, with no words to adequately express his loss. The couple enjoyed a very special marriage, where mutual love and trust permeated every aspect of their lives. Tangible in their relationship were the Book of Ephesians’ precepts for husbands and wives: Patrick loved Carmen with sacrificial responsibility and Carmen honored Patrick with love. Inseparable, they did everything together. As Patrick would describe it, sometimes kicking and screaming, he would allow Carmen to drag him to yoga and qigong, only to find himself admitting that he enjoyed it. The beautiful person that was Carmen is encapsulated in the words of her dear friend and adopted sister, Fran. We are honored to have Carmen’s essence recounted here, in Fran’s words: Carmen was a peaceful soul and lived from that depth of peacefulness. She never wasted words or uttered them aimlessly: she lived purposely. Though a naturally quiet person, she effortlessly commanded attention from her audience—whether it was an individual, a small group in a university setting or from concert goers at an opera house waiting to imbibe the sublime music pouring from Carmen’s vocal cords. You see, Carmen emanated from eternity, lived in a defined space and time (celebrated the whole month of May every year), and returned to eternity. Amidst it, she remains ageless, thinking and performing beyond the constraints of time. Carmen was ageless. She related to infants, children, and young adults as well as the aged. Her influence on little Austin, her 6-month old grandson, is evident as he sings in his way without words; it is no different than when Carmen and Grammy, her mother-in-law, who up to her death at the age of 103, would communicate in their own ‘garbled gibberish’. God was her bedrock. In conversation a few weeks ago, she confessed with her entire soul, how much she loved the Lord. She lived for Him and expressed His wisdom through her work. She was God’s handiwork and her handiwork was His! Whenever complimented on her teaching practices, her beliefs, or her performances, she would direct the praises to God. Like God, who’d never leave you, if Carmen considered you a friend, it meant sticking with you to the end. If she committed to the relationship, Carmen was all in. She was the best friend ever. Lots of people were familiar with what Carmen did. She was an opera singer, voice instructor, and professor par excellence. Her critical eye, discerning ear, and immaculate perception gained her these titles along with her pristine voice and talent. But she was someone who knew how “TO BE.” She was comfortable in her own skin. She just was. She gave the verb “to be” a personality: she simply just “was.” Carmen was contemplative, possessing a plethora of principles and proverbs. Some she adopted, others she created. She was beautiful inside and out. She was passionate about who she was and what she did. Her principles were awe-inspiring, always given to edify the listener. Many of her principles—she was proud to say—were derived from her American-Indian ancestral background. If you were entertained at their home, you were captivated by Patrick’s delightful cuisine, but Carmen always added the icing on the cake by intriguing you with her amazing experiences. If you were lucky, you might end the night with a game of backgammon or Phase 10. Carmen loved nature. She elucidated the character of trees that others would just drive by. Her favorite season had to be spring, not for the flowers or the coming out of winter, but she enjoyed the tapping of rain on roofs and windowsills. She even enjoyed a good torrential downpour. Carmen was generous! She was generous with her heart, her time (especially with those she called friends), and her finances. She was also generous with her knowledge. Carmen was a life-long learner. She had an insatiable quest for knowledge, something she could never perish for lack of. She was an avid reader, and when she grew tired of reading, Carmen enjoyed being read to. She continued to process what she heard and engaged in conversation about each chapter. Parallel to Carmen’s reading was her love of research. If something didn’t seem right, or if it did, she looked it up to further expand her knowledge on the subject matter. Many professors are published on paper. Professor Balthrop was published with her own papers, with her skill and what she passed on. Many of her students and colleagues may not realize it yet, but what she has left you has empowered all of you to penetrate the vocal world with total command and mastery. In her own way, there are theses, papers, and publications that she has already released to you through her “proverbial musical womb.” Carmen’s level of creativity and innovation surpasses most of us. She had a perfect mastery of the voice, but she also had an understanding of what was required of the body to attain proper work of the vocal cords, be it to correct posture, the need for weight adjustment, a prolonged breath, or a simple hug at the end of class. Her movement classes were as important as her voice lessons. She embraced the moves of qigong and shared them to enhance all our lives. Carmen was also an embodiment of health. Her modus operandi was health, period. She spent decades of her life perfecting her health protocol. She did not just exercise, she lived to move. Be it on a treadmill, a floorball, jogging or employing qigong techniques, Carmen moved, preparing her body for the long haul. She would chide Patrick to do the same as she did not want to be a widow. She did the same for her daughters, sons-in-law, and all her family, friends, and students. When it came to proper nutrition, Carmen spared no expense. She ate the best foods, especially greens and seeds, and when she did eat meat, it was farm-raised and organic. She took proper supplements to boot. Carmen read nutritional labels and ‘organic’ was her brand. (One of her favorite pastimes was to enjoy good food with good friends.) She lived well. It is so perplexing that despite her pristinely healthy lifestyle, Carmen experienced health challenges to which she succumbed. Carmen was not fond of conventional medicine. She employed its latest developments as she saw fit and, when health challenges arose, Carmen would call to get medical advice and would leave the medical practitioner with health advice as well. She never went for a doctor’s visit unprepared. Carmen always did her research and, by the time they met, they would have discussed and weighed all options in order to direct sensible treatment decisions. She had become Dr. Balthrop-Delaney. Carmen loved life! She embraced other cultures. No joke. Patrick, her lifelong love, is from the Bahamas, a small island nation in the Caribbean. She was sincere about her every encounter. Her interaction with and love for those she met transcended class. Her constellation of friends was not very large, but Carmen loved, and loved a lot! She embraced life. She had a full life. It was always a privilege to watch Carmen perform. Very few people entered the sanctuary of her dressing room prior to a performance but if you did, it was indeed a privilege! Rules number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 10 were: Be quiet, every part of you. You see, Carmen sat in those dressing rooms and quieted her soul. It was a quieting moment for the ‘volcanic’ eruption of song that would burst forth in performance on stage a few minutes later: a total cathartic experience to witness and listen. Carmen was a girly girl, whether at home looking in the mirror or on a performance trip. The jewelry, scarves, and trinkets such as amber and amethyst stones found their way to her house. Whether it was for the classroom, church or some other event, several earrings and necklaces would be lined up on the dresser with the inevitable question: “Which one?” Carmen was a classy individual and when she found the apparel she liked and that suited her, they made it home in all colors. The fragrance of Opium EDP pervading the atmosphere could never be the same again. It was made for Carmen’s chemistry and to smell it elsewhere would probably distort the senses. A whiff of Opium now calls for a heavenly presence. Carmen was determined and she believed in God. We all believed Him with her for healing and the healing came, but in a different package. One thing we do know is that she believed to the end. Carmen didn’t do death. She was not fond of funerals. That was just her. A couple weeks ago, she began to speak of the end of her own life, having thoughts of transitioning from this world into eternity. She embraced her departure from this world, and was prepared to live a new life, absent from her physique, but present with the Lord. Dr. Myles Munroe once said that the wealthiest place on earth is the cemetery. He went on to explain that it is filled with unfulfilled potential and lost dreams. Not so with Carmen! She cheated the grave! She emptied herself of herself and as a soldier of the cross, poured it into each one of us! Her students witnessed this first hand until the very end: a determined Carmen teaching until she could teach no more. Today, and for the rest of our lives, we celebrate the life of Carmen Arlene Balthrop- Delaney. Each of us is blessed with the distinct pleasure of living her legacy!”