Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney, soprano and arts advocate, was born in Washington, D.C., on May 14, 1948, to John W. Balthrop, a U.S. Department of Justice Printing Office employee, and Clementine E. Jordan Balthrop, a homemaker. Carmen was the youngest and only girl in a family of four.
Balthrop became interested in classical music when she heard the legendary opera singer Leontyne Price on the radio when she was eight years old. Balthrop graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C. in 1967. She was a member of the school’s mixed concert choir and one of the group’s piano accompanists.
Balthrop then attended the University of Maryland, College Park, where he earned a bachelor of music degree in voice performance in 1971. The following year, she received a master of music degree in voice performance from the Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music (CAU).
Balthrop won first prize in the National Council Auditions of the New York Metropolitan Opera, one of the most prestigious competitions in opera, in 1975. The following year, she performed as the title character in Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha with the Houston Grand Opera. Balthrop made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Pamina in Mozart’s opera Die Zauberflöte in 1977. In 1977, she testified before a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee in support of President Jimmy Carter’s proposed budget for the National Endowment for the Arts.
She was asked to perform an aria from an opera at the end of her testimony. She was applauded as she exited the hearing room, and a 15-minute recess was called for her to sing to members of Congress and congressional staffers in the hall of the United States Capitol.
In 1985, Balthrop started teaching applied voice at the University of Maryland School of Music. She also taught singers movement, opera repertory, and an advanced vocal pedagogy seminar. In 1985, Balthrop married Dorceal Duckens, a marriage that ended in divorce. While their marriage was brief, they did have a daughter, Nicole Duckens Mosley. She later married Patrick Delaney, with whom she had a daughter, Camille Delaney-McNeil.
Balthrop was inducted into the University of Maryland Hall of Fame in 1995. She was the voice and opera division coordinator at that institution’s School of Music from 1995 to 1998. Despite her academic obligations, she continued to perform with opera companies such as the Washington Opera, the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, and Opera Columbus in Ohio. Balthrop first appeared as the lead in African American composer Leslie Burrs’ opera Vanqui in 1999, and she reprised the role from 2016 to 2020.
Balthrop was also an advance professor in the College of Arts and Humanities at the University of Maryland during that time. She was the university’s associate director for academic affairs and undergraduate studies from 2020 to 2021.
Carmen Arlene Balthrop-Delaney died of cancer at her home in Mitchellville, Maryland, on September 5, 2021. She was 73 years old.