Times Staff Writer

Having appeared successfully with a number of regional and urban opera companies--like those in Washington, St. Louis, Arkansas, Kansas City and Long Beach--Ruth Golden would seem ready for her debut in July with New York City Opera.

And the debut comes right on schedule in a career which in the last half-decade has moved steadily, rather than meteorically, upward. The California-trained, New York-based soprano, winner of a passel of national competitions, says she is not trying to hurry the process.

“There is time,” contends Golden, who will appear in recital with pianist Lev Rothfuss in Ramo Auditorium, Caltech, Sunday afternoon. “Getting the opportunities is not always the problem. It’s being completely ready for them when they arrive.”

The opportunity of singing with City Opera for its entire summer-fall season this year, Golden believes, involves more than roles and media exposure.


“It’s also being in New York for one uninterrupted stretch,” says the ex-Californian, who has lived in Manhattan for three years now, commuting to concert and opera engagements around the country.

“Being in town and available for auditions is one of the most important priorities for young singers,” she continues.

By the time Golden steps onto the stage of State Theater, two months’ hence, she will have already sung three separate recitals in New York this season as winner of competitions that offer such appearances as prizes. Does she intend to continue entering musical contests?

“I think so. You see, every competition I’ve entered, since the one in Carmel in 1979, when I was still a student at USC, has been for a particular reason,” she explains.


“Sometimes it’s simply the money--a large amount of cash I can use for travel, or coaching, or whatever. Sometimes it’s the exposure--to agents or impresarios or conductors who may be the judges or in the audience. And sometimes, as in Baltimore last year, it’s to try out new repertory--in that case to make the first steps toward my transition from the soubrette to the lyric roles I want to do now.”

As a result of winning in Baltimore last June, Golden has the opportunity to make her debut with the Baltimore company--in a role she now has the option of choosing. What will it be?

“Well, I always say, now that I’m giving up the twit parts, I’m becoming one of those leading ladies of anguish. You know, Mimi and Marguerite and Elvira and their ilk. But I don’t mind. It’ll be one of those.”

As fate would have it, Golden recently took on a new anguished-lady role, that of Liu in “Turandot,” on very short notice.

In Kansas City, where she was singing Yum-Yum in “The Mikado,” a colleague contracted a throat infection and Golden was asked to sing Liu from the pit while the ailing soprano mimed it on stage. Golden did so with just a few hours’ notice.

“It was fun,” she says. “Now and then, over the years, I’ve studied the arias. And I had a good four hours to spend with the score.”

Her next project?

“Well, before my six-month engagement with City Opera, and after I go to Zurich (where she has been selected to study with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf), there is one big thing.


“That’s the Naumburg Competition, a contest with all kinds of repertory demands, coming up right away. I’ve now been advanced to the third level--there are seven levels--and I’m getting really excited about it.” If she wins this one, will she give up contests?

“Well, we’ll have to see,” Golden answers, after mulling it over.