Today's Classical Music Video

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Magda Olivero Sings Gounod and Cilea

The legendary Italian soprano Magda Olivero turns an improbable 103 this coming Sunday.  What can one say about this remarkable singer except to marvel at her life and career?  Born in 1910 in Saluzzo, Italy, Olivero made her debut in 1932 and performed widely until 1941 when she married and retired.  Ten years later, she returned to the stage at the request of composer Francesco Cilea, performing his best known opera Adriana Lecouvreur.  This has remained her signature role for the rest of her career.  She made her Metropolitan debut in 1975 - already in her mid 60's - as Tosca to rapturous reception. Her last stage performance was in 1981 in Poulenc's La voix humaine, a career that spanned 50 years.  After her retirement, Olivero continued to sing informally, and she even made a recording of Adriana at the grand age of 83, issued on the Italian label of Bongiovanni.  You can even find her talking and singing snippets from the monologue in Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, at 99 years of age!  Olivero's voice was never particularly opulent or rich, but it has an immense power of expression, especially in the verismo repertoire.  To celebrate the grand dame of Italian opera, here are two clips - one of her at 83 singing Gounod's Ave Maria with rock solid legato, and the other of her singing the dramatic entrance aria "Io son lumile ancella" from Adriana Lecouvreur.  Happy Birthday Magda Olivero! 

Joseph K. So

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