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Posted at 11:08 PM ET, 01/28/2011

Margaret Price RIP

By Anne Midgette

The Welsh soprano Margaret Price died today, aged 69.
Updated: My obituary of Dame Margaret Price in Tuesday's Washington Post.

Price was a brilliant Mozart soprano, and sang a number of Verdi roles, but for me the role she was born to sing was Desdemona in Verdi's "Otello." I remember seeing my first Otellos at the Met in what I now learn was her debut with the company (in 1985 I was not yet writing professionally about opera, and such facts tended to elude me from my favored post in Family Circle standing room). I thought she was radiant. I went back several times, as young people in standing room are wont to do, and it wasn't until my third or fourth performance that I scored a ticket in the orchestra and realized that Ms. Price was not, physically, quite the sylph-like young thing I had perceived from the very back of the house. Of course that didn't matter; she sang the role like an angel.

This impression was born out years later when I heard her in an opera concert in Munich singing Verdi arias. Desdemona's Act IV scene is not an ideal concert aria: it's long and can verge, in the wrong voice, on the lugubrious (that's a lot of wounded innocence for one scene). Dame Margaret had acquitted herself fairly well until that point in the evening; but when she sang Desdemona, time simply stopped. It was the outstanding moment of the evening.

I heard her do other things, over the years, but never lost the idea that the ideal role for her vocal weight, her quality of freshness, was Desdemona.

By Anne Midgette  | January 28, 2011; 11:08 PM ET
Categories:  opera  
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Comments

I also saw Margaret Price as Desdemona at the Met, also from standing room. I was an impressionable student, and the ushers, who really knew their singers, told me I was a very lucky guy to be hearing her. It was gorgeous, and unforgettable.

Posted by: Lutoslawski | January 29, 2011 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Thanks so much, Ms. Midgette, for your beautiful obit. I was never fortunate to hear her live but, as a young singer in the mid'70s, lived for her Mozart. The finest Konstanze I've ever heard...

Posted by: GordonsGirl | January 29, 2011 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Dame Margaret Price fut toujours la Desdemona que je vis avec Placido Domingo dans Otello. A Paris avec Sir Georg Solti ou Nello Santi et à Londres avec Carlos Kleiber. Un de mes CD les plus chéris: des airs de Mozart puis des lieder de Schubert et de Richard Strauss. La dernière fois que je l'ai entendue, c'était dans les Wesendonck Lieder de Wagner. Superbe Isolde également avec Carlos Kleiber. Respect à vous, Dame Margaret Price!

Posted by: airelle_mezzavoce | January 29, 2011 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I only heard Ms. Price when she sang in Washington with the Opera de Paris in 1976, as Desdemona and the Countess.

Although Ms. Price was more comfortable as Desdemona when Lorin Maazel replaced Georg Solti at the second Paris "Otello", the Mozart role was a better fit for her dramatically.

We were fortunate enough to see the Giorgio Strehler "Figaro" production, which was revived last fall in Paris. Frederica von Stade, Edith Mathis and Gabriel Bacquier were also in the 1976 cast here.

That "Figaro" was played without the standard cuts. So while it was a long night, the soloists and the orchestral playing under Gary Bertini made the performance one of those sublime occasions at the Opera House.

Thanks, Anne, for remembering Dame Margaret Price.

Posted by: JerryFloyd1 | January 29, 2011 8:22 PM | Report abuse

I was at Trinity College of Music at the same time as Margaret Price. One afternoon the choir was rehearsing Fauré's Requiem with Charles Kennedy Scott, such a perfectionist that we spent at least 30 minutes on the opening page until he was satisfied. We finally moved on until we came to the Pie Jesu. 'Margaret,' said CKS. There was total silence as her extraordinary voice moved exquisitely through the phrases of the Pie Jesu. At that moment I knew there was a great singer in our midst. I met Margaret Price several times subsequently at recitals and concerts and I arranged one of her earliest recitals, accompanied by James Lockhart, for the music society in our town. It cost us the princely sum of £200. Her voice has an extraordinary purity and luminosity; this is combined this with a high musical sensitivity and intelligence. If you don't know her recording of Brahms' lieder, get it now and be moved and uplifted. RIP Margaret, from a world to which you gave so much.

Posted by: barrie2 | January 30, 2011 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I saw Margaret Price three times, all at the San Francisco Opera: in Otello, Aida, and Simon Boccanegra. In the big ensemble in the Counsel Chamber scene of SB, she produced I think the most beautiful single sound I have ever heard from a human throat: a long, long, perfect mezza-voce trill. The memory of that, and of the suppressed gasp from the audience, has never left me.

Posted by: srgordon1 | January 31, 2011 6:38 PM | Report abuse

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