Rest in Peace: Dame Margaret Price
On the 28th January, 2011 the operatic firmament lost another star, that of Dame Margaret Price.
World renowned as a Mozart specialist, she was in possession of one of the most beautiful lyric soprano instruments on the late 20th Century.
Starting out as a mezzo with the Ambrosian Singers, with whom she recorded the soundtrack to the 1961 Charlton Heston movie El Cid, Price then made her operatic debut in 1962, singing Cherubino in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro at the Welsh National Opera. After initial opposition by Geog Solti, the then Musical Director of the Royal Opera House, she was engaged as a mezzo in minor roles and it wasn’t until the cancellation of Teresa Berganza, for whom Price was her understudy for the role of Cherubino, in a performance of Le Nozze di Figaro at the Royal Opera in 1962 were her talents truly revealed.
After further training at the encouragement of composer James Lockhart, she re-emerged with a luminous lyric soprano voice famed for it’s beauty in the upper register. Further engagement followed, including Titania in Britten's A Midsummer Nights Dream and Constanze in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Glyndebourne.
Her first complete opera recording was as Fiodiligi in Klemporer’s classic reading of Cosi fan Tutti in 1972 and saw her emegence as a Mozart specialist, later adding Pamina, Donna Anna and the Countess to her Fach. Price’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera was as Desdemona and she recorded this role opposite Carlo Cossutta with Georg Solti.
Perhaps her most famous recording of a non Mozart role was Isolde in the Kleiber recording of Tristan und Isolde, a role she never sang on stage. Hers is a most feminine and seductive Isolde, perhaps the most feminine on record and it will be this that I turn to in remembrance of her.
Dame Margaret Price was awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), in 1982, and made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), in 1993, as well as being a Kammersängerin of the Bavarian State Opera and the Vienna State Opera. She died at her home in Wales aged 69.