NOTE: I have reprinted this article with the addition of a recently-found audio sampling of the singer.
I sometimes find the arias from Douglas Moore's BALLAD OF BABY DOE spinning thru my brain. Baby Doe Tabor was of course one of Beverly Sills' greatest roles; however she was not the first soprano I saw in the role. My first Baby Doe was Anne Elgar.
In 1969 I spent a few months in New York City, allegedly looking for a job but in reality just wanting to go to the opera every night. Ironically, the Met was on strike so I went every single night to the New York City Opera; it was during this period that I saw my first BABY DOE with Ms. Elgar. I had heard her earlier as Mimi in BOHEME (I scrawled a big "fantastic!" next to her name on my Playbill) and later as Gilda in RIGOLETTO, Susanna in NOZZE DI FIGARO, and in another BABY DOE.
In Baby Doe's many arias, Anne Elgar's voice had a sweet lyric sound with a trace of girlishness; the tone had a richer quality than the silvery timbre associated with Beverly Sills in the role. Her singing was fresh and warmly feminine and she was an attractive figure onstage. At the time I was getting accustomed to certain voice types in certain music; prior to hearing Anne as Gilda I was feeling that it was a part for a very light, high voice: Lily Pons and Roberta Peters were my "role-models". Anne's fuller sound here made me begin to think of more possible voice-types in various roles and to welcome a variety of interpretations...and not stick to stereotypes.
I made house tapes of Anne's Baby Doe and Gilda but they are far too fragile now to play. I also remember her singing Anne Trulove's aria and cabaletta from THE RAKE'S PROGRESS on television and recording it, though it vanished with the rest of my reel-to-reel collection years ago.
Anne Elgar appears on one at least one commercial recording: Jack Beeson's LIZZIE BORDEN. I know that she was involved in a couple of other LP opera releases but they seem never to have made it to CD.
Anne Elgar Kopta now lives in Arizona and teaches at Arizona State University.
UPDATE: Here is a recorded rarity: