Margaret Price (1941-2011)

World-renowned Welsh soprano dies, aged 69

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Dame Margaret Price, one of the world’s leading sopranos, has died at the age of 69.

The Welsh-born singer, famed for the beauty of her voice, excelled in Mozart and Verdi, although in a recent interview she revealed her ‘first and last love’ to be Lieder.

Despite being born into a musical family, Price was discouraged from pursuing a career in music, particularly by her father, and was encouraged to train as a biology teacher. However, she won a scholarship to study with Charles Kennedy Scott at the Trinity College of Music, London, then as a mezzo-soprano.

After a short stint with the Ambrosian Singers on graduating, her father was by then converted to the idea of Price pursuing a singing career. He began to write letters on her behalf for auditions, which led to her being cast in the role of Cherubino in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Welsh National Opera.

Sir Georg Solti was underwhelmed by Price’s audition for the Royal Opera House, but gave her a contract to cover Teresa Berganza. Stepping in at short notice when the Spanish mezzo-soprano fell ill, Price made a memorable debut. Her switch from mezzo to lyric soprano proved fruitful, and it was in this guise that she shot to fame.

Particular in her choice of roles – ‘My theology has always been that, if there’s a role someone else can sing better, let them do it’ – Price made her name in parts such as Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Amelia in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera and Ariadne in R Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos. Although she never sang the part on stage, her performance as the heroine in Carlos Kleiber’s recording of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde in 1982 has become a benchmark.

In 2007, Price came eighth in BBC Music Magazine’s 20 Greatest Sopranos of All Time list. ‘I waxed lyrical in The Guardian that she was perhaps “the most complete soprano of our time”,’ wrote critic David Nice. ‘I don’t regret it. Anyone who can encompass Mozart, Wagner, Strauss, Verdi and Lieder with equal command well deserves the accolade.’

Shakira Mahabir

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