Dame Margaret Price, possessor of one of the world’s most beautiful soprano voices, has died from heart failure at the age of 69. She passed away yesterday morning at her home near Cardigan, Ceredigion.
She was born into a musical family in Blackwood, Monmouthshire. In her youth she rarely competed at Eisteddfodau but dreamt instead of becoming a biology teacher. It was on her music teacher’s recommendation she went to London to sing for conductor Charles Kennedy Scott and won a scholarship to study with him at the Trinity College of Music followed when she was just 15.
Price made her operatic debut in 1962, singing Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro for the Welsh National Opera. That same year, Price joined the Royal Opera House where she sang minor roles. Her breakthrough came when Teresa Berganza cancelled a performance, and Price got the chance to take over as her understudy – again in the role of Cherubino, a performance that made her famous over night.
The conductor and pianist James Lockhart convinced Price to take further singing lessons to improve her technique and develop the luminous high scale that made her one of the most popular lyric sopranos of the 1970s and 1980s. Price also found support from Otto Klemperer, who conducted her first recording of a major role in a complete opera – Fiordiligi in Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
In the years that followed, Price appeared as a guest at important opera houses. Her Metropolitan Opera debut came in 1985 as Desdemona in Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello. As Price did not enjoy travelling, she always kept a “home” stage, where she stayed and performed for the majority of each year – first Covent Garden, then Cologne, and since 1971 the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where she lived until retirement in 1999.
She was awarded the CBE in 1982 followed by the DBE in 1993, and the Munich Opera honoured her with the title Bayerische Kammersangerin.
Photo: Malcolm Crowthers