Judson mourns death of Irene Jordan Caplan, Class of 1939 | Judson College
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Judson mourns death of Irene Jordan Caplan, Class of 1939

Judson College community is saddened by the passing of a devoted and distinguished alumna, Irene Jordan Caplan, Class of 1939.

Irene-Jordan-at-JudsonMrs. Caplan, a Birmingham native, enrolled at Judson at the age of 16 to major in voice and drama. After her graduation in 1939, she continued her ardent support of her College, returning as a guest artist-in-residence and teacher in the Department of Music and giving numerous concerts for her Alma Mater, including a benefit concert to raise money for the reconstruction of Jewett Hall after it was destroyed by fire in 1947.  She performed at Judson in celebrations of Judson’s 100th, 125th, and 150th anniversaries.

In 1955, the Judson College Alumnae Association recognized her achievements and the constancy of her dedication by awarding her the highest award given by the Association, the first Outstanding Alumna Award. In recognition of her success and contributions to her College and the world, the Judson College Board of Trustees awarded her an honorary doctorate degree in 1969.

This promotional flyer mentions Miss Jordan’s performance as Eglantine in Carl Maria von Weber’s Euryanthe. Jordan’s aria as Eglantine at a 1953 Carnegie Hall performance is excerpted in this video.

Mrs. Caplan died May 13, 2016 in Dalton, Mass. A Memorial Service is being planned at the Plainfield Congregational Church in Plainfield, Mass. For more information about the service and Mrs. Caplan’s outstanding life, find her obituary, published in The Birmingham News, below. Our condolences to the Caplan family.


Irene Caplan (1919 – 2016)
Apr. 25, 1919 – May 13, 2016

Irene Jordan Caplan, a native of Birmingham, died on May 13, 2016 at Craneville Place in Dalton MA where she resided since 2008. Mrs. Caplan was formerly a resident of Plainfield, MA and New Rochelle, NY. Born April 25, 1919 in Birmingham, daughter of the late Eugene and Sara Ann (Whitehurst) Jordan, she attended schools in Birmingham and graduated in 1939 from Judson College in Marion, AL, where she majored in voice and drama. Miss Jordan taught in the music department at Judson during the 1939-1940 and 1942-1943 school years.

Coming from a musical family – her father was the band director at the Alabama Boys Industrial School and her mother an accomplished violinist – Miss Jordan determined at the age of five to become an opera singer. In 1940 she moved to New York City where she pursued a music career and studied singing, ballet, German, French and Italian. She worked in choruses and roles in summer theater and on Broadway.

In 1946 she auditioned for NBC radio and was awarded a weekly radio show called “Songs by Irene” accompanied by the NBC Symphony. In the same year she auditioned at the Metropolitan Opera Company and was given a three-year contract as a mezzo-soprano and made her debut that year in “Lakm” on opening night at the Met.

After being retrained as a soprano, Miss Jordan returned to the Metropolitan Opera in 1957 to sing the dramatic coloratura role of Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” In addition to her career at the Met she sang with major symphony orchestras and opera companies in the US and around the world.

In 1961, recommended by Leonard Bernstein, she won a Ford Foundation Grant presented to the “Top Ten American Performing Artists.” A critically acclaimed actress, her repertoire included Shakespearean arias. Among her other successes, she performed for six weeks at the Stratford Ontario Shakespearean Festival in 1959, and with Agnes Moorehead in a Shakespearean program at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. Miss Jordan also gave concerts on behalf of the Southern Baptist Foreign Missions Board in Lebanon, Germany, Trinidad, Venezuela, Ecuador and Nigeria.

A teacher as well as an artist, she taught voice at Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, The King’s College and Kennesaw College. Her brilliant career spanned six decades. Her last major public appearance was in the summer of 1999 at age eighty performing Braham’s Songs for Voice and Viola with the Mohawk Trail Concert Series in Charlemont MA.

In 1947, Miss Jordan married the late Arnold Caplan, a first violinist with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. They had four children: Joel Caplan of Tarrytown, NY; the late Rosebeth Miller; Rowen Caplan of Plainfield, MA; and David Caplan of Norwalk, CT. Mrs. Caplan is survived by one brother, David Jordan of Birmingham; plus five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A Memorial Service is being planned at the Plainfield Congregational Church. The Flynn & Dagnoli-Bencivenga Funeral Home, in Pittsfield, Mass., is in charge of arrangements. To add to the Book of Memories, please visit www.flynndagnolifuneralhomes.com.

Flynn & Dagnoli-Bencivenga Funeral Home – Pittsfield
5 Elm Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201
413-442-1733
Published in The Birmingham News on May 15, 2016