Welsh-born soprano Margaret Price (b. 1921) made her operatic
debut for her National Company in 1962 as Cherubino. It was
her calling card at Covent Garden the following year. There she
later sang the Mozart roles of Pamina, Donna Anna, Countess
Almaviva and Fiordiligi. At Glyndebourne, 1968-1972, she sang
Constanze and Fiordiligi, reverting to Pamina for her American
debut at San Francisco in 1969. In the 1970s Margaret Price sang Mozart in Paris and the major German-speaking houses.
She did not however, make her Met debut until 1985 when her
Countess Almaviva sounded, and looked, a little matronly. At
the period of this recording Mozart was the mainstay of her
repertoire. This issue catches her vocal skills in the composer’s
work at its peak, her silvery yet rich tone encompassing the
varied demands with aplomb.
disc features Margaret Price in all three of the major soprano
roles that Mozart wrote for Figaro. She may have lost something
of the young buck that is Cherubino of her portrayal in her
earlier years in Voi che sapete (tr. 10). Any slight limitations are more than compensated for in
her rendering of Susana’s Deh vieni, non tardar (tr.
3) with its delightfully floated sotto voce singing. At this
stage of her development Miss Price’s Countess
Almaviva is young and silvery toned as she laments the behaviour
of her husband in Dove sono (tr. 5). Her Martern aller
Arten is sung with careful skill and musicality and without
any harshness in the high tessitura found on some recordings
by other divas (tr. 6). Perhaps the most consummate singing
and characterisation are to be heard in her Mi tradi (tr.
9). I would very much have liked to have heard her Pier pieta
from Cosi fan tutte rather than the included Non mi dir
(tr. 13). The latter accentuates the undoubted weakness in Margaret
Price’s singing, the tendency to soften the consonants at the
expense of diction.
the concert arias Margaret Price seems stretched in Bella
mia fiamma (tr. 14) finding better form in Vado, ma dove
(tr. 16), the words written by Da Ponte in 1787, the year
of the composition of Don Giovanni. Sir Georg Solti, for whom
she recorded Donna Anna, tempted her towards the heavier Verdi
lyric roles, at least in the studio, and under his baton she
recorded Desdemona in Otello and Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera.
Perhaps significantly, Solti did not find a role for her in
his starry cast Figaro of 1982. More surprisingly she recorded
a radiant heroine in Tristan and Isolde in Carlos Kleiber’s
lyric view of the work. In contrast Solti had cast the big-voiced
and dramatic Birgit Nilsson, his Brünnhilde, as Isolde, a very
different voice. Margaret Price retired from opera performances
in 1994 but continued to give recitals until 1999.
Ms Price’s repertoire extended beyond Mozart it is via her singing
of his works that she is best known and remembered. This well
balanced and clear recording catches her in good voice and provides
an ideal memento of an admired singer who recorded far too few
of the roles represented here in complete performances. The
experienced opera conductor James Lockhart
is a sympathetic and supportive colleague. The booklet gives
the context of the roles and also the words with English translation.
Various sopranos have recorded similar collections. Caught early
in the decade of her best singing this disc is an excellent
representation of Margaret Price’s highly accomplished vocal skills in repertoire which
she loved and which was widely loved by audiences.
Robert J Farr