From Development server
30 January 2011

Margaret Price, 69, Luminous Soprano Who Made Her Mark in Mozart, Has Died

MARGARET PRICE
Blackwood, Wales, April 13, 1941 — Moylegrove, Wales, January 28, 2011 

News Price LG 211  
Price as Desdemona in 1985
© Beth Bergman 2010 

A soprano whose luminous timbre and pellucid phrasing established her as a peerless Mozart interpreter and a much-admired lieder specialist, Price studied on scholarship as a mezzo-soprano at Trinity College of Music in London. She made her stage debut as Cherubino at Welsh National Opera in 1962 and was given a contract the following year to cover Teresa Berganza in the same role at Covent Garden, despite the stated opposition of Georg Solti, then the company's music director, who felt that Price lacked sufficient charm for Mozart's cheeky pageboy. When Berganza fell ill, Price stepped into Covent Garden's Figaro and proved Solti wrong: she was received with enormous enthusiasm and was soon one of the most sought-after artists of her generation. Within the next few seasons, Price made a successful transition to the soprano repertoire, guided chiefly by conductor and coach James Lockhart, with whom she recorded two exquisite Mozart recital albums and several standard-setting lieder programs. 

She made her Glyndebourne debut in 1966, as the Angel in a staging of Handel's oratorio Jephtha, devised by Gunther Rennert and Caspar Neher. Price returned to the company in later seasons as Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1968, '72) and as Fiordiligi in Così Fan Tutte (1971). Price joined the English Opera Group in 1967 and appeared with them as Britten's Tytania, as Galatea in Acis and Galatea and in Mozart's The Impresario. San Francisco Opera presented her U.S. debut in 1969, as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, and remained her favored opera company in North America; she appeared there as Fiordiligi, Nannetta in Falstaff, Amelia Grimaldi, Aida and Desdemona. Lyric Opera of Chicago welcomed her as Fiordiligi, the Countess, Desdemona and for a 1979 gala. 

Price did not make her Met debut until 1985, when she had a triumph in Verdi's Otello, although she had appeared at the house in 1976 with the Paris Opera, as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro and Desdemona. Price's other Met credits included a recital with James Levine (1987), a 1989 run as Elisabetta in Don Carlo — a performance of authentic majesty, capped by a glorious "Tu che le vanità" — a pair of Nozze Countesses in 1994 and a tour with Levine and the MET Orchestra in 1995.

Price appeared frequently in Paris, Cologne and Munich, where the Bayerische Staats­oper awarded her the title of Kammer­sängerin. She made many excellent recordings, among them Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with Karl Böhm, Berg's Altenberg Lieder with Claudio Abbado, The Blessed Virgin in Elgar's The Kingdom with Adrian Boult, Così Fan Tutte with Otto Klemperer, Le Nozze di Figaro with Riccardo Muti, Die Zauberflöte with Colin Davis, Ariadne auf Naxos with Kent Nagano and Otello and Don Giovanni (Donna Anna) with Solti. But for many listeners Price's most treasured recorded performance was her 1982 Isolde — a role she never sang onstage — paced by Carlos Kleiber, a conductor whose sense of exaltation matched Price's own in a perfectly scaled "Mild und leise." Also impressive are Price's recording of Mussorgsky's song cycle The Nurserywith Lockhart, and her programs of Richard Strauss lieder with Graham Johnson, Geoffrey Parsons and Wolfgang Sawallisch.

Price did not cut a glamorous figure on stage — she was a substantial woman who made no effort to hide the fact — but her singing had a sumptuous, glowing beauty that few if any of her contemporaries could equal. A Price performance was unfailingly expressive and generous; her firm yet supple traverse of a Mozart or Verdi recitative, its words weighted with imagination and precision, could tell an audience more about a character than hours of flashy "acting" from other sopranos. Price was probably happiest singing in recital, where her natural warmth and unpretentious style endeared her to audiences. She was named a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1993 and in 1999 retired to her home on the Pembrokeshire coast, where she bred golden retrievers. In a 2007 OPERA NEWS interview with Eric Myers, Price viewed her career with contentment and affection: "I wouldn't have done anything else. My life has been a good life." 

Price died from heart failure at her home. spacer 

F. PAUL DRISCOLL

More information can be found in the OPERA NEWS Archives: "Reunion: Margaret Price." 

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