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Ruth and Thomas Martin

Remembering the 20th Century's
foremost opera translators


A Life in Opera

This site is dedicated to the librettists and opera translators Ruth and Thomas Martin who, in a career spanning four decades, translated some forty operas into English and introduced generations of music lovers to the glories of opera as it was meant to be seen and heard - as living drama rather than as a museum piece. 

The New York Times noted that the Martins' Mozart translations "helped spark the revival of interest in Mozart's operas in this country in the 1940's and 50's." Lifelong proponents of opera as vital, approachable entertainment as well as great art, the Martins worked tirelessly to promote a love of opera among audiences young and old.



Bringing Opera Closer to All

RUTH AND THOMAS MARTIN are renowned throughout the English-speaking world as the foremost translators of opera in the Twentieth Century. In a career spanning some forty years they produced some forty translations, including Cosi Fan Tutte, Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro, and many others both well-known and rare. Their translations have been performed at the Met, The New York City Opera, and in countless opera houses in America and overseas, as well as on radio and television. 

The Martin translations are known for combining wit and singability (qualities rarely found together). Today many opera fans can trace their love of the art to the first time they heard La Bohème or The Barber of Seville and not only understood the words, but also enjoyed the clarity, humor and emotional power of Ruth and Thomas Martin's English versions.


RUTH KELLEY MARTIN was born in New Jersey in 1914. She studied music, languages, and literature at Smith College, and did further study at the University of Munich and the Salzburg Mozarteum. She also studied the violin privately in Vienna and Budapest. While in Europe in the late 1930s she reported on musical events for the New York Times. She married Thomas Martin in 1939. Shortly thereafter she and Thomas began their lifelong collaboration. Ruth also wrote articles for Opera News, Aria Magazine, and Theatre Arts, and was on the boards of a number of music organizations. In 1998 she received a Life Membership Award from the National Opera Association, the first Theodore L. Kesselman Award for Arts Education, and also awards from ASCAP, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and the National Federation of Music Clubs. She died in 2000.

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THOMAS PHILIPP MARTIN was born in Vienna in 1909. Son of Arthur Fleischer, a renowned baritone at the Vienna Volksoper, Thomas graduated from the Vienna conservatory and then conducted at the Vienna Volksoper and the Salzburg International Opera Guild. Settling in the USA in 1939, Thomas conducted in St. Louis, Chicago and Cincinnati before becoming a conductor with the newly-formed New York City Opera.


In 1958 he began a seven-year stint as Associate Chorus Master at the Metropolitan Opera, after which he returned to the New York City Opera as Director of Musical Studies. He also served as musical director for the Central City (Colorado) and Lake George (New York) Opera Festivals, and was Adjunct Professor of Education at New York University. He died in 1984. 

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