Dame Margaret Price † 28 January 2011
The news that Dame Margaret Price has died of heart failure in Cardigan is as unexpected as it is a shock. 2011 was to have been a year in which to honour this grandiose singer, who would have celebrated her 70th birthday on 13 April. Sadly, it has now all turned out so differently and it seems like the final curtain has fallen on a rich stage career.
Dame Margaret Price
Foto: Sabine ToepfferIt was a career not without its tragic moments, for the evermore powerful mechanisms that drive the world of classical music were not always suited to the sensibility and settledness of an artist such as Margaret Price. The result was a constant retreat, first from the world of opera that she had conquered as a whirlwind in the early 1960s as an ideal interpreter of Mozart. And yet she long retained her immense technical ability and a timbre of undiminished freshness and beauty, as was proven by a concert performance of the final act of Cilèa’s Adriana Lecouvreur in the Herkulessaal in Munich in 1999. The occasion was the tenth anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Patanè, under whose baton she had triumphed in the role at the Bavarian State Opera 15 years before. Munich became her second home for a while, and it was there that she long performed the repertoire with which she had begun her international career in London, San Francisco and Cologne – singing not just Mozart, but also Strauss and the great lyrical roles in Verdi’s Don Carlo, Simon Boccanegra, Aïda, Otello and Falstaff. From the 1980s onwards, her lieder recitals were regular highpoints of the Munich opera festivals. Yet she also withdrew from this more intimate arena in the mid-1990s. Her recordings continue to set standards, such as her Schubert songs accompanied by Wolfgang Sawallisch, which was the first-ever recording released under the ORFEO label and remains to this day a best-seller. But Brahms’s German Requiem under Sawallisch and her lieder collections of Robert Schumann (including Frauenliebe und -leben), Johannes Brahms and lesser-known French and Spanish composers (all three recordings with her long-time piano partner James Lockhart) are remarkable examples of this soprano’s interpretive art. We now take our leave from her in sadness, yet in gratitude.