The perfect soprano – on pitch at 96


Magda Olivero (25 March 1910 – 8 September 2014)

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  • Amen. One of the great singing actresses, on the order of Claudia Muzio or Callas, in some ways, at some times, of stronger voice, but like them instantly recognisable. And what an artist!

    • Dear Edgar: I couldn’t have put it better myself!
      Muzio, Ponselle, Callas…. and Olivero.
      Now THAT’S the real deal.

      • Oh bit you could and you have, Greg Bottini. How couold I forget Ponselle or her ister of the Ponzillo girls? But thanks for the use of the hall. Stay well, caro, and keep the Italian tricolors flying. I’ve been reading about Gribaldi and Commandante Gabriele d’Annunzio in Fiume, also, Giacomo Leopardi’s “L’Infinito” which I dearly love, and Giosue Carducci. A great country.

        • An addendum:
          The name of Licia Albanese should also not be forgotten (as I just did!).
          Like the other sopranos mentioned, she had a unique and instantly recognizable voice and a vibrant acting personality. She was not only a celebrated mainstay at the MET, but at the SF Opera as well. Toscanini chose her for his broadcasts of Boheme and Traviata, which are “must-hear”, but I think her finest work on recordings is the Manon Lescaut with Bjoerling, cond. Perlea.
          An embarrassment of sopranistic riches, then: Olivero, Callas, Ponselle, Muzio, and Albanese.
          As I’ve written before: thank God for recordings.

    • Yes. No idea why. The missing link is usually just a basic YouTube link, no apparent reason why it should not show up.

      If I’m especially interested, I’ll open a different browser (e.g. Chrome — I’m normally on Firefox) and copy/paste the URL.

  • I was in the chorus for her Fedora in Dallas in the 1970’s and heard her Adianna and Tosca thereafter. I have never since seen/heard any artist have the impact on an audience that she had–she reduced them to jelly. Thanks so much for posting that beautiful Panis Angelicus. It brought a tear to my eye.

  • An afterthought to Greg Bottini’s addendum above. Licia Albanese definitely goes on the list. Her young Mimi opposite Gigli’s Rodolfo, and espeially her Traviata with Robert Merrill, the long “Ah, dite alla giovine/Imponete/Morrrrrrro! scene A lifelong favorite.

    Like Lotte Lehmann, she turned breeathlessness into expression, lived forever, and was intantly known, and unlike so many singers, had the gift of words. I’ll look up that Manon Lescaut with Bjoerling, which I’ve never heard.

    I saw qlbanesi on stage just once, as Donna Anna when San Francisco Opera visited Los Angeles with Cesare Siepi, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Jan Peerce, and Erich Leinsdorf conducting from a harpsichord and accompanying the recitatives from memory. That was the year of Birgit Nilsson’s US debut with Hans Hotter and Set Svanholm in Die Walkuere. i had seen Hotter in Keilberth’s Bayreuth “Ring” with Moedl the year before.

  • Oddly, Aristotle Onassis is connected to two of these, Muzio and Callas. Olivera had better taste and was happily married. When Muzio sang at Teatro Colon, Ari filled her dressing room with flowers. She left with her mother without saying goodbye to him. Her eventual marriage to a younger man is said to have contributed to her decline and early death at 47.

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