Oh, no! Magda has died, aged 104

The great soprano Magda Olivero died today at the immense age of 104.

She made her radio debut in 1932, retired to have a family in 1941, returned in 1952 and conquered all the world’s major stages. Her Met debut was in 1975, as Tosca. She retired at 71, a legend in her time, and made her last recording in her eighties.

No singer spanned more of her century. We thought she would last forever.

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  • As records go, Hugues Cuenod had a longer lifespan (1902-2010) and a longer career (1928-1992). Nevertheless, it wouldn’t take much to convince me that Oliveiro was a greater singer.

  • This is a significant event indeed as not only was Olivero longlived as a person but so was her career. It’s great that films are now coming out with her singing as they were not so available before.
    There were two clips I played over and over, however. One was on the Great Singers of the XXth century in which she was describing the technique of Gigli “Le parole piccole” sticks in my head as well as his notable breath control.
    The other was her “Vissi “d’arte” from Tosca, that heaven protect me from fire and brimstone raining from heaven, I thought more convincing than that of Maria Callas. Instead of posing statuesque with her gown in perfect folds, Olivero gave the more believable impression of being in shock and not knowing what to do.
    Also heaven protect me from lightning, but I imagine her acting was better than her singing which at times seemed pinched on the top.
    As for Opera Verismo, I wonder if there was a connection to Claudia Muzio, a generation before her who also wrenched the utmost from a scene or aria. Muzio had most of her career in America in the 20’s and 30’s but to me they seem to have had a kindred artistic spirit.

  • Formidable! Magda Olivera was one of the greatest of soprano actresses, with Claudia Muzio and Maria Callas. that is to take nothing away from Hugues Cuenod, Licia Albanesi, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, or Lotte Lehmann.

    Two of them, Muzio and Callas, were wooed by Aristotle Onassis before he dropped his sights. He had a good taste in sopranos. Muzio left Buenos Aires without evening telling him goodbye, but prudently taking her mother with her.

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