- Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award (1979)
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on June 19, 1912 to Frederick K. and Idoleein (Halloway) MacWatters, Virginia MacWatters began her musical studies in piano at the age of eight at the Zeckwer Hahn Musical Academy in Philadelphia. This led to a one year scholarship at the age of twelve to study voice with Henrietta Conrad, formerly of the Dresden Royal Opera. Her first appearance in a singing role was as Mabel in "Pirates of Penzance" while still in junior high school. After graduating from the Philadelphia Normal School for Teachers, she supported her studies through substitute teaching and singing primarily in churches throughout the Philadelphia area. She received a scholarship to the renowned Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and went on to study opera and acting under Ernest Lert and Greta Stauber.
After taking second prize in the Metropolitan Opera Auditions of the Air in 1941, she made her debut with the New Opera Company in the leading role of Adele in "Rosalinda," the Broadway adaptation of "Die Fledermaus," which ran for 540 performances. Her opera debut occurred with the San Francisco Opera in 1944 as Micaela in "Carmen," and in 1946 she received great acclaim for her performance as Zerbinetta in the New York City Opera's pivotal production of "Ariadne auf Naxos" at City Center. The performance led to engagements at London's famed Covent Garden, the Edinburgh Festival, and at opera houses in Central and South America. She also appeared with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C., the New York Philharmonic, and with the Cleveland and Chicago Symphony Orchestras. In 1952 she made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera singing Adele in "Fledermaus," and she remained as a principal soprano with the Metropolitan for a number of years. While in San Francisco in the 1950s she met Paul Abée, a transplanted German hotel manager, and the two married in 1960.
In 1957 a twenty-five year dual performing/ teaching career began when Dean Wilfred Bain of the Indiana University School of Music offered her a position on the voice faculty. Known as "Miss Mac" to her students, her devotion to teaching was apparent, and in 1979 she was awarded the university's most prestigious honor, the Frederic Bachman Lieber Memorial Award for excellence in teaching. Noted students of MacWatters who went on to careers in performance include Lorna Dallas, Lila Deis, Sylvia McNair, and Carol Malone.
Following her retirement in 1982 with the rank of Professor Emeritus, she continued to teach privately. Virginia MacWatters died on November 5, 2005 at the age of 93.