Soprano  Margaret  Price
 
A Conversation with Bruce Duffie


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For just over twenty-five years, I had the pleasure of working for WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago.  We held our own despite fierce competition, and went out on top in 2001 when the station was sold and changed format.  Besides the musical content, we were famous for having animals
– numerous dogs and catsand indeed, when we were about to go off the air for the last time, several listeners called, volunteering to take care of one or another of the canine and feline group.  The fact that they had no interest in the announcers is another matter, worthy of much introspection at a different time, perhaps...  [To see photos of some of the WNIB animals, click HERE, and then use the link at the bottom of that page to go on to the succeeding two pages.  Also, names which are links on this webpage refer to my interviews elsewhere on this website.]

Some of my early guests came to the station for interviews, and seemed intrigued with the animals.  My first personal encounter with conductor Sir John Pritchard resulted in one cat being caught in the recording studio and jumping down onto the desk... much to the delight of the surprised maestro.  Later, I would chat with tenor Rockwell Blake at his apartment, and his Scottie spent the entire time asleep upon my feet as we talked.

I bring this up because my guest on this webpage is Margaret Price, herself a known dog-lover, as seen in the photo above!  Perhaps it was the mutual interest in small animals or just the manner in which we greeted each other and instantly got along, but we had a jolly time together
– the three of us... the interviewer, the soprano, and her doggie!

She was in Chicago to open the 1985-86 Lyric Opera season in Otello by Verdi.  In the middle of the run, she graciously permitted me to visit her apartment for a conversation. 
After discussing our menageries, we got down to musical matters . . . . .


Bruce Duffie:    Tell me the secret of singing Mozart!

Margaret Price:    Oh, hard work.  That’s the secret, it’s hard work.

BD:    Is it gratifying to sing Mozart?

MP:    Yes.

BD:    Is the hard work of Mozart the same as you need to have for Verdi and for Wagner?

priceMP:    It’s not quite the same.   Sure, everything that you sing is hard work, but with Mozart it’s a special kind of discipline where you’re forever polishing every note so that they are even, that there are no flaws in a phrase.  I always like to say that it’s like a perfect set of pearls.  That’s what I strive for when I sing Mozart, that every pearl is of the same quality and size.

BD:    Can it ever be too perfect?

MP:    I don’t know.  I don’t think that anything can be too perfect.  There’s always the danger, of course, that one is criticized for being mechanical, that it’s like putting a recording on.  I would be very happy if someone said that to me.   That’s what I strive for
perfection.  I don’t always get it, but that’s something I always work for.  That’s my aim in life.

BD:    Is there any other composer besides Mozart that comes close to needing this kind of perfection?

MP:    The earlier composers.   Certainly Rossini, not quite as much, but you can sing a Rossini run ‘fioritura’ or embellished phrase without necessarily having to sing every single note perfectly.  It’s simply the way that it’s written, whereas Mozart then went beyond that and made more melodic phrases out of the embellishments.  Therefore it’s more lyrical.  One sees or hears more instantaneously a flow, a production of that phrase than you would in do in Rossini.  Donizetti’s also the same.  I can’t sing these composers.  I have a real fear of singing these composers.  Every time I see all those little black notes, I get absolutely terrified.  They cramp my vocal cords straight away.  It’s a totally different technique altogether for me, personally.  Not for everybody, but for me personally it’s a different technique.  [At this point, the dog makes a small noise and Ms. Price addresses her directly]  We don’t want you to say anything, thank you, Tessa!

BD:    [With a big smile]  Tessa?

MP:    Contessa, after Figaro!

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  You should have another one and call her Tura!  [Making the pun tessa-tura]

MP:    [Laughs]  No!

BD:    In amongst all the work, is Mozart fun to sing?

MP:    Oh yes, definitely.  It’s great fun.  In some ways I miss that now that I’m singing a lot of Verdi.  I miss the great fun that Mozart has in as much as we are an ensemble together.  Although we’re still an ensemble together in Verdi, it’s slightly different because if you’re doing Don Carlos, you’ve got a tenor, you’ve got a baritone, you’ve got a bass, you’ve got a soprano and you’ve got a mezzo soprano.  They’re all great singers in the one opera, and then they all go their own way.  After the show’s finished they don’t even say good-bye to you.  I don’t mean that in a rude way; I feel everybody should say good-bye to each other then.  We are all very friendly with one another, but nobody would knock on the door and say,
Hey, Margaret, I’m going over to Joe’s across the road for a sandwich.  Do you want to join us?  Nobody does that in Verdi for some unknown reason.  Everyone goes their own special way, but with Mozart we’re all singing together all of the time in ensembles, so there is more of a family feeling.  Certainly when we are rehearsing and we have a lunch break, we usually always go together and have something; or in the evening after a performance we’ll go and have a drink and a sandwich or something like that.  Or we’ll call each other up and say, Hey, how about coming round to me tonight for something to eat or whatever?  That you don’t ever experience in the other repertoires.

BD:    I wonder if learning Mozart and creating these pearls creates a camaraderie among the very the few who can do it?

MP:    Maybe, maybe, I don’t know.  Interesting!

BD:    Do you sing any Early Music – Monteverdi, Cavalli, etc.?

MP:    I have done.  I don’t actually sing it at the moment, although I have been asked several times recently to sing some Monteverdi with Nikolaus Harnoncourt.  I haven’t actually been able to find the time yet to do it.  That’s something you have to set when you decide to do certain repertoire that you haven’t done for a long time.  If you were to ask me to do Constanza in Seraglio, then I would have to take the time away from my schedule in order to work at it; and one does not always have the luxury of doing precisely that.  It would certainly mean time with singing any of the Monteverdi repertoire, although I would love to do it.  It would mean really taking time off to get my voice into that style of singing, for once you’ve started singing a lot of Verdi, your voice is not as pure as it is required for singing this other repertoire.  It’s the same with Mozart.  When I’ve sung a Verdi role
even the lightest, like Desdemona, which is the lightest role of all of the Verdi operasafter that I always notice that my voice is in a different place in my throat.  It is not that I have a wobble, but it is not as pure and as controlled as it would have been had I been singing Figaro or Così Fan Tutte.


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BD:    How long does it take you to change – a couple of days?

MP:    It only takes a couple of days.  It doesn’t take very long, but it means that for those few days I sing only Mozart.  I sing it very, very slowly, getting every note back in place without a wobble, without a wide vibrato.  You can’t say one does it without a vibrato because then it would be a dead note, and every single note that anybody produces has got a certain amount of vibrato.  Even a boy soprano.  I remember at one point being criticized by someone in the press for having a boy soprano hooty kind of voice.  Even a boy soprano, in order to produce a hoot, still has a vibrato on his voice.  To form a note you have to have some of vibrato.

BD:    It has to live!

MP:    It has to live, exactly.

BD:    Then how do you decide which roles you will sing, or is it predestined by the contracts you’ve got?

MP:    No, it’s my decision as to what I sing.  Over the years I’ve been very, very careful.  I’ve stuck predominantly to singing Mozart until my voice developed in strength and in power.  Then I felt it was time to move on to fresh pastures.  I decided to sing Simon Boccanegra and Otello, which are the really two lightest of the Verdi heroines.  But now I’ve gone onto heavier ones.  I sing Aïda, and I’m doing Ballo in Maschera and also Trovatore.

BD:    Will you abandon the Mozart completely?

MP:    No, never.  I will always go back.  I am singing this Otello, and will continue singing Verdi until the beginning of December.  Then I shall go back to the drawing board, so to speak, and work for a week or so on my Mozart.  Then I go to Paris to do the Missa Solemnis, so I shall need to get my voice into shape for singing Beethoven.



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To read my Interview with Marilyn Horne, click HERE

To read my Interview with Jon Vickers, click HERE

To read my Interviews with Zubin Mehta, click HERE




BD:    How do you balance your career between opera and concert?

MP:    I have an equal diet, I would say, 50/50 opera and Lieder and concert work.  It’s the way I’d like to keep it as well.  Maybe later as I get that much older I’ll probably do more Lieder recitals and less opera.  Opera can be very fatiguing.  There are lots of things in opera that one has to battle for and against, which you don’t have to do if you’re giving Lieder recitals.  If you’re asked to give a Lieder recital, you’re your own boss.  You have only piano, a pianist who accompanies you, and you have yourself.  You can decide when you’re going to rehearse.  You don’t have to conform to the wishes of others.  You don’t have to sit around waiting for others to turn up
and maybe not turn up!  That can be frustrating in the opera field.  You arrive on time and you’re being professional, you know your work, and then sit there for about a week or ten days, or maybe two weeks and find that the whole cast is not available to rehearse with you. 


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BD:    Do you use that time to work on news parts or refresh old parts, or just take a rest?

MP:    I just simply take a rest.  I have to decide if they’re not here to work with me, goodbye.  I’ll go off and just simply rest and read or walk the dog, or whatever.

BD:    Do you think that having an unexpected vacation might even be a blessing?

MP:    Well, because of your contract you can’t really go out of the city you’re contracted to sing in, so you really can’t have a vacation.  What for example would have happened if the cast had not turned up on time here?  I wouldn’t have been able to go out of Chicago.  I’d have had to stay here.

BD:    [With a gentle nudge]  We don’t like to think we’re so terrible...

MP:    Oh certainly not!  I adore Chicago!  Don’t get me wrong, but what I mean is that I couldn’t have taken off to the sun.  I couldn’t have gone to Bermuda or to Miami for two weeks holiday.  On the contrary, Chicago is actually my favorite city of all the cities in America that I sing in.  I like it very, very much.  I’m always very much at home and happy.  Everyone I have to work with in the city is so nice.  They’re so thoughtful and kind, and it’s really very, very nice.


Margaret Price in Chicago


Lyric Opera of Chicago

1972 - Così fan tutte (Fiordiligi) with Howells, Davies, Krause, Evans, Ursula Kozsut; Pritchard, Ponnelle
1975 - Marriage of Figaro (Countess) with Dean, Malfitano, Ewing, Stewart, Voketaitis, Begg, Andreolli; Pritchard, Ponnelle
1985-86 - Otello (Desdemona) with Domingo/Johns, Milnes, Redmon, McCauley/Kunde; Bartoletti, Diaz, Pizzi


Chicago Symphony Orchestra

1971 - Bach B Minor Mass with Veasey, Alva, Shirley-Quirk; Giulini, Hillis
1979 - Beethoven Symphony #9 with Killebrew, Jung, Talvela; Solti, Hillis
1981 - Strauss Four Last Songs; Mahler Selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Abbado
1986 - Verdi Requiem (premiere of new edition by Gossett) with Finnie, Cole, Giaiotti; Abbado
1987 (Ravinia Festival) - Strauss Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne) with Lakes, Mentzer, Battle, Prey, Castel, Velis; Levine



BD:    That’s nice of you to say.   Maybe we can entice you back more often!

MP:    Oh, I hope so!  I’d like to come back.

BD:    Do you like being booked two, three, fours years in advance?

MP:    In some ways yes, and in some ways no.  The positive side of it means that you know that in the next three years you’ve got work.  That means that you’ve got money flowing into the bank, and that, for me, is rather important in so much as I don’t have a husband to look after me.  Whatever I do, I have to provide for myself.  The negative side of it is that you commit yourself so far in advance to doing something, that when something more interesting comes along you can’t do it.  You have to say no.  And that is invariably the case.  If, for example, I have to commit myself up until 1990, it could be that a dream recording comes along.  Everyone knows that recordings are never planned that far in advance, so it means that I can’t do it, and that’s sad.  Also it could be that a wonderful concert comes with a fantastic conductor that you really desperately want to work with, and I can’t do it!   Sad, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles!

BD:    I hope that there are other things that you’re looking forward to, certain things that are coming up that are in your schedule.

MP:    Oh, sure!  The things that you accept are all exciting things, and things that I personally want to do very much with conductors that I love working with.  That’s not really the case.  It’s just that it can happen that such and such a conductor says he is doing something and desperately wants to record that role with me.  The answer has to be no, I can’t do it.

BD:    I wonder, though, if that’s forcing you to be a little more prudent with your life.  If you accepted this and accepted that and accepted everything, maybe you’d be working too much.

MP:    That is a risk that a lot of singers have to take, and then they decide if they’ll do that.  I, however, don’t sing that much.  I only sing between fifty and sixty performances a year.  Sixty is the very, very maximum.

BD:    You look in your schedule and you absolutely say no more than that?

MP:    Yes. 

BD:    Why?

MP:    I want to keep my voice!  It is that simple!  [Both laugh]

priceBD:    A simple, but prudent answer!  We’re talking a little bit about recordings.  Do you enjoy making records?

MP:    Yes, I do.  It’s a different technique altogether to live performances, but I enjoy doing it. 

BD:    Do you find them artificial?

MP:    No, not when I’m there no!   When I’m there doing the work, I’m working so I can’t honestly say I feel any tension or any artificiality about it.  Sure, when you’ve done something maybe three times and you’re the one who’s done it right in all three times and somebody else is lousing it up for you, you could put your foot somewhere.  But basically it’s working towards a kind of perfection that I actually like.  I enjoy doing them.

BD:    But for the recordings you can cut and piece for an added dimension of perfection.

MP:    They do that.  For a recording I did recently of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben, there are no cuts in it at all.  We did it from beginning to end as a cycle.

BD:    But that’s just you and the piano.

MP:    Yes.  One can’t control what those little men do with their knobs when other people are involved.  But certainly on the recital recordings that I’ve done, I’ve been very impressed.  There are very few cuts, and certainly not splicing into notes, or splicing in order that you can sing the phrase in one breath where you know perfectly well no one is capable of singing it in one breath.  [Laughs]  You listen to some of these things and you think,
My goodness, she must have got an enormous pair of bellows going on behind her that she can sing that in one breath!  [Both laugh]  Then I know that’s because they’ve cut into it and they’ve joined it all together.

BD:    At what point then does this kind of editing become a fraud?

MP:    That’s an example that I think is a fraud.  It’s also a fraud when they electronically alter the pitch.  This means that if you’re not capable of singing a top C on that day but only a B or a sharp B, they can actually bring it up to a C.  If they were ever to do that, I think that would be fraud.

BD:    Even though sometimes you can sing the C without any problems?

MP:    Yes.  I think then they should come back in a few days’ time and have another go at it.  So many of the recordings today are made that way.  You get a situation where either the soprano goes ill or the tenor goes ill, and you have one week of recording or two weeks of recording with fifteen minutes per day because if you’re doing a three-hour session, you’re only allowed so many minutes of music to record during that day.  So if one of the artists is sick, that throws the entire recording out.  So what happens then is that they voice their part over at some other given date in the studio.  That I don’t mind providing it is genuine sickness.  Where I think one should draw the line is because an artist wants to do a job somewhere else.  Then that artist comes and does the voice-over at some other time.  The result of that is everyone else sounds maybe a little tired because they’ve been there working every day, and the other person comes in sounding perfectly fresh.  They are also in a different studio – which we have to take into consideration – and the acoustic is different.  It is always more favorable.  That I don’t like very much!

BD:    So you couldn’t possibly do this in Mozart because of all the ensembles?

MP:    Well, it’s done.  We had a circumstance with the Mozart Requiem that I recorded in Dresden where Araiza was really sick.  I mean he was feverishly sick, and just simply could not do the recording.  No way could he do it.  He was desperately ill and he had to voice his part over.

BD:    Why couldn’t they get a different tenor?

MP:    He had already started and had done the first couple of days’ recording, and then got sick.

BD:    Is recording harder work than stage work?

MP:    No, I don’t think so.  Depends on what you’re recording.  I’ve recorded Tristan and Isolde in Dresden, and that was hard going.  I had to be very, very careful with my own personal discipline with that because we were rehearsing with Kleiber in the morning from 11 until 1, and then from 2 until 6.  Every night we recorded.  That was hard going.

BD:    Were you able to impose a Mozart sound onto the Wagnerian line?

MP:    I just sang it with whatever instrument I have.  I sang it with my voice.  I didn’t try to emulate any other Wagnerian singer or try to have a Wagnerian sound for this.  He specifically chose me because he didn’t want that.  So I sang it the way I sing in all of my roles.  People can hate it and can people can like it!  It’s there and there’s nothing I can do about it.

priceBD:    Do you like the recording?

MP:    I haven’t actually yet listened to it from beginning to end.  I’ve heard the first act and I’ve heard the Liebestod, but what goes on in between I haven’t fully heard.

BD:    Speaking of Isolde, did you delve into the character at all or did you just do the recording?

MP:    No, I worked very, very hard.  I spent a whole year studying the part of Isolde musically.  It didn’t take me a year to learn the notes, but what I mean is the actual studying of the opera, the characterization.  I was under a slight disadvantage in as much as I had never done it on stage, so I didn’t have the possibility of working with a producer who would help me with an interpretation.  I had to find my own interpretation, and I could only do that by reading books and reading the legend over and over again, and various interpretations of that legend.  The original legend was written by a Welshman, so I was very proud of that, of course!  I just was reading up all of the information that I could get my hands on so that I could formulate in my own mind my interpretation of this piece.

BD:    This was while you were doing other concerts and other operas?

MP:    Yes, yes.

BD:    But you prepared it essentially the way you would if you were bringing it to the stage?

MP:    Yes.  The only thing that was missing was bringing it from memory.  That I didn’t do because I knew it was not necessary to do that.  Although, it is surprising when you don’t think you have to do it from memory, it comes very quickly from memory.  It’s only when you know you have to memorize something that I get a blackout and I worry.

BD:    Do you like having all of the various roles in your memory?

MP:    I have a lousy memory, I must honestly say.  It is my downfall.  I learn very, very quickly but I forget it just as quickly.  I can absorb things very, very quickly but, my gosh, it goes.

BD:    Then do you rely on the prompter?

MP:    For certain operas that I haven’t sung a great deal, yes, I do rely on a prompter.   For a piece like Otello that I must have sung over 200 performances by now, I don’t require her for anything unless something dangerously wrong; if it goes sour on stage or where someone forgets chunks of music.  Then I look down at her to make sure I’m still on the right track, or if, for example, I’m unconcentrated, which can always happen.  You can have a bad day and you’re thinking of something else totally, and then your mind wanders and you suddenly find yourself forgetting a word or a couple of words, or whatever.  Then, sure, the prompter’s very, very useful.

BD:     But Otello is not one you have different cuts in various places.

MP:    It can be cut, and I’ve done performances where the children’s scene in the second act musically has been cut.  I’ve also done performances where the big ensemble in the third act has been cut.

BD:    Does that not do violence to the music as Verdi has set it?

MP:    There are parts of that ensemble that could be cut.  It’s not sort of fantastic music, not his best music, and since it’s repetitive, it can be cut.  It’s not a great cut.  I don’t mean the whole section, just that there is a possibility of a cut in that big ensemble.

BD:    Oh, I see, just a little tightening then?

MP:    Yes.

BD:    Do you prefer with the cut then?

MP:    No, I don’t mind it either way.  I personally prefer to do everything from beginning to end without cuts, but I can see the point.  It can be a long opera, and it’s also a matter of finance, especially with the cut in the second act.  If they haven’t got the children...

BD:    How about Mozart with the cuts in the recitatives?

MP:    Oh, that’s a pain!  [Both laugh]  Don’t talk to me about that!!  That is the biggest headache God ever created, especially in Così Fan Tutte.  It’s the worst.  There are no cuts for the Countess in Figaro, there are no cuts in Don Giovanni, but Così Fan Tutte, that is painful.

BD:    And every production is different?

MP:    Practically every opera house that you go to has a different set of cuts.

BD:    I assume it’s all in the recitatives, not in the arias.

MP:    No, it’s all in the recitatives, but that can really throw you.  I think I’ve learned all the permutations over the last twenty-two years.  I've done every permutation of cuts in Così!  [Much laughter]

BD:    Has anyone done it all?

MP:    Only on record.  It would become disastrously long.  We’d be there a week!  My gosh!

BD:    Then why did Mozart write all those recitatives?

MP:    I don’t know!  It is long.  Così is a long opera.  All Mozart operas, curiously enough, are long.  One doesn’t realize that until you get down to the nitty-grittys, and
with the intervals they all run nearly three and three-quarter hours! 


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BD:    Do you prefer doing Figaro in two pieces or four?

MP:    Two!  In Europe we mostly always do it with only one interval – just two acts
– and it’s nice.  Mind you, I also prefer Otello with only one interval.  I can’t bear this business of an interval after each act because then some of these intervals are longer than the act itself.  I really do think that one and two could be run together, and if you have to have one after the third act because of the scene changing, alright.  But I really do think that one and two could be run together, and I honestly think three and four could be.  But here in America they build enormous sets which means, of course, they have to have the time to change them.

BD:    Do the sets ever get in the way of the production?

MP:    I have never worked on anything yet where I’ve found that.   I think that producers on the whole know what they’re doing.  Sometimes I feel it would be nice to do it a little more simply, with a simpler set and simpler clothes.

BD:    But you don’t want to get back to the days when it’s just a chair and a tree and a backdrop?

MP:    No, I don’t mean that, but certain producers get over elaborate with the clothes.  They can weigh a ton, and they are so large, heavy, and difficult to work in.

BD:    Cumbersome?

MP:    Yes.  And then on top of that, they give you hundreds of steps to walk up and down.  It’s not all easy being a singer.  Everyone thinks they’d love to be a singer.  How glamorous wearing wonderful costumes and just opening your mouth and this wonderful sound comes out!  I think, my God, just give them a week of trying to do it and see what they’d say after that!

BD:    Do you wish that the public knew how hard it was?

MP:    Yes, I do.  Yes, I really do.  Because of the criticism that they make, it would be nice if they could put themselves on the stage and try and be a singer for a few weeks or a few months and see how hard it is.  I don’t think they’d be quite so nasty, or so ready to open up and criticize.  Even the worst singer in the world has still had to do a lot of work, and has a lot of courage to get out there to do that job.  It’s not all a bowl of gems!

BD:    What’s the role of the critic?

MP:    It’s a very difficult one.  On the other hand I feel that he should make a statement.  He should criticize, but to criticize doesn’t mean negative criticism.  All right, if there’s something there that is palpably not right, he has the right to say it wasn’t right.  If whatever it was that happened didn’t come off and was not right, that I think is permissible.  But in his criticism, he should, somehow, get over to all of his readers
of which there are thousands of peoplethat it’s only one man’s criticism.  He’s gone to the opera that night, and it’s only one man’s idea of what went on.  There were three thousand other people there who liked it and there’s one man who didn’t, and he should try, somehow, to get through to himself and to the readers that this was only his opinionone man’s opinion – and that they should go and see it for themselves.  What happens an awful lot is that he writes this pontificating article the next day, of which much is about the production and very little, if you’re lucky, is about the singer.  [Both laugh]  And if you’re lucky enough to have your name mentioned, I doubt that it will be spelt properly!  I haven’t got a ‘down’ on critics, absolutely not, but I do have a very strong feeling they tend to think that their word is law and that they’re God.  And the people who read it, unfortunately, think that and therefore they don’t make up their own minds.  They then say they’re not going to go to that.  Look at the state of Broadway shows, for example.  Some of them open and close after about three or four weeks.  That’s basically because the critics have said it is lousy show. 

BD:    Are the critics ever right that it is a lousy show?

MP:    Very often the critics are right, but it’s unfair that the critic himself should be the one to bring that show to an end.

BD:    We used to have four major daily papers here in Chicago, and after the first night of an opera I would always run around and buy all four.  Sometimes I would wonder if the critics had been in the same theater.

MP:    I know.  That’s what I wonder very often.  I’ve gone to performances and I’ve really asked myself if I had bad ears.  Was I in the hall next door?  Did I hear something completely different to what he has written about?

BD:    Are you a good audience?

MP:    Yes, I think so.  I know how difficult it is to get up there and do it, so I try not to be terribly critical.  I don’t go to singers very often because I sit there and I breathe.  I go through every single minute of agony with them, and by the time I leave that place I’m so hoarse that I can’t sing my own performance.  That happened to me once in San Francisco.  I went to do a performance when a friend of mine persuaded me to go.  The next night I was supposed to be singing in Aïda and he said,
“Go to the performance.  It’s one way of keeping your mouth shut!  Otherwise you will be blah, blah, blah, blah, blahing all night.  So I went and was in absolute agony because the soprano who was singing was not having the best night of her life.  She was in a little bit of vocal problem, and I sang every note for her!

BD:    Was it a work you knew?

MP:    No, it was not one in my repertoire.  [They both laugh] 

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Tell me about the character of Aïda.  What kind of a woman is she?

MP:    Oh, dear.  I hate it when people ask me these questions because somehow I don’t go into in a psychological way what kind of woman is she.  I work it out more musically than psychologically.  So to ask me what kind of woman any of the things are, I wouldn’t be able to answer you.  

priceBD:    Okay, let me change it around a little bit.  Do you like the woman, Aïda, and do you like portraying her?

MP:    Yes I do, very, very much.  I find her a very sympathetic person to portray.  Musically I find it very difficult.  I think it’s probably the most difficult role in the repertoire.  It can certainly be the most frightening!

BD:    [Surprised]  Frightening???  How?

MP:    When it comes to the third act, you’ve already sung the Triumphal Scene and Ritorna Vincitor, which are all block-busters.  Then you have the most lyric part of the opera to sing, which is the Nile Scene.

BD:    He wrote it backwards!

MP:    It’s almost that way, yes, and it’s certainly very, very difficult to overcome.  I don’t think it’s necessarily just me alone.  I think that all of my colleagues who’ve sung that role would say the same thing.  As soon as the Nile aria is over, they can breathe a sigh of relief.  Once the Nile Scene is over, then you’re home and dry.  You’ve still got the duet to sing, but certainly once you’ve sung the Nile aria, then you can start breathing again. 

BD:    Do you spend most of the time in the theater that night anticipating all this? 

MP:    Under pressure, yes, definitely, definitely.

BD:    I was going to say the same is true of Isolde, but then you didn’t have to work that up to sing it in order.

MP:    No.  Well, in fact I did more or less do it that way.  I did persuade them, as much as possible, to take it in order so that I would sing everything chronologically.  But I didn’t have to worry about doing it all in one go, if that’s what you mean.  That’s true. 

BD:    You didn’t have to pace yourself so the Liebestod would sound fresh. 

MP:    Yes, that’s true.

BD:    Are the Verdi characters that you sing different from the Mozart characters?

MP:    No, not very different.   I always tended to sing the people who are hard done by in life.  [Laughs]  If you look, for example, at the Countess in Figaro.  She’s hard done by.  She’s fallen in love with a man who’s not faithful to her.  She has a hard time until we get to the last part of the last act where they all come together.  That’s something else, but the life that she’s got is not easy.

BD:    When you’re doing the Countess, do you ever think about the third drama of Beaumarchais?

MP:    No!

BD:    Not at all?

MP:    No, nor the first... not when I’m actually singing the Countess.

BD:    But the operatic public can be aware of it

MP:    You can’t possibly think that way, not while you’re singing the Mozart because automatically you’re thinking of Barber of Seville, and she was at that time a very frivolous person.  When you come to doing the Countess in Figaro, she is older and she’s certainly not frivolous.  I know it’s a trilogy and one should, I suppose, think of Rosina and then Countess Almaviva, but Mozart didn’t write it that way. 

BD:    He wrote it to stand on its own?

MP:    Mozart wrote that particular role for a mature person, not for a frivolous young girl, so you can’t interpret it any other way that Mozart wrote it.

BD:    Sometimes I like to ask questions about whether they are happy in the act after the final curtain, but in that case we know what happens.

MP:    Ponnelle has an interesting end to Figaro.  It’s a long time since I sang it in his production, but as far as I remember, after everyone had finished singing, he then had the Countess go running off into the woods with Cherubino.  That’s interesting! 


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BD:    Let me ask you then, who should Fiordiligi end up with in Così?

MP:    I think that she should end up with Ferrando, but it’s very difficult to make it work that way.  One production that I very much enjoyed was because it was very clear for the first time, and that was a Boy Gobert production that I did in Geneva (in 1977).  At the end she’s left on her own.

BD:    [Somewhat shocked]  They both abandon her???

MP:    She doesn’t go to either of them.

BD:    Is it her choice or their choice?

MP:    Her choice.

BD:    Is that Mozart and Da Ponte speaking, or is that ‘women’s lib’ today?

MP:    No, it’s certainly not ‘women’s lib’.  It’s just basically the feeling that was within her.  He talked to me about the way I felt about it, and I certainly feel I don’t want to go back to Guglielmo.  As Margaret Price singing Fiordiligi, my interpretation of this woman is that it’s taken me long enough to be
seduced by Ferrando.  I fought against it for almost two and a half hours saying, No, I’m going to remain strong.  I am engaged to Guglielmo.  I love him very much and nothing is going to change that.  Then after a lot of friendly persuasion, she succumbs to the charms of Ferrando.  I honestly believe that if she can’t have him, then she doesn’t want anybody because she’s ruined her life for Guglielmo.  She’s proven to herself that she doesn’t love him anymore, and therefore this could only be artificial if she goes back to Guglielmo.  With Ponnelle, as far as I remember – it’s hard because I haven’t done his production for such a long time – but I’ve got the feeling that she does not go back.  There’s a very funny change at the very end where all the music has finished.  He’s actually got her going to Ferrando, as far as I remember, but I could be wrong about that.  But certainly with Boy Gobert they go towards each other.  Dorabella, because she’s a flighty person anyway and she’s not as serious as Fiordiligi, so she automatically goes back.  

BD:    It’s been a passing fancy for her?

priceMP:    It’s just been a passing fancy!  Fiordiligi just somehow makes it clear.  She does not say,
Go run a mile, or whatever, I don’t want anything to do with you.  It’s not that.  It’s more subtle than that.  She just moves slightly away, and he allows her to be on her own.

BD:    [Facetiously]  If Fiordiligi goes off on her own, then Dorabella’s going to wind up with both men?

MP:    Could be!  [Both laugh]  Anyway, ever since then, I’ve always played it in my own mind – although one can’t do it because you can’t go against the producer’s wishes.  If the producer says you go off with Guglielmo, you go off with Guglielmo.  But there is one moment always now in my interpretation of that role where I myself say,
Okay, I will go with him but it’s not through my wish or want of going with him, therefore it’s just like a marriage of convenience and I will accept it.

BD:    How can we make some of these women who were created in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries speak to women in the twentieth and now almost the twenty-first century?

MP:    I don’t think you can.  No woman today will be a doormat to any man, I’m afraid.  Partly because I’m in this business, any woman listening would say,
Yes, it’s all very well for you to talk, but you’re not married.  So how can you say what you would do with this?  It is partly because I am an opera singer and I have played these women practically all my life.  I am convinced that the man is the boss of the family, not the woman.  I think that there should be a mutual agreement between the two as far as possible, but when it comes to the crunch, the man is the bread winner and the man is the man.  You can’t change that role... at least I don’t think you can change it, but then I’m not a women’s lib person.  I find myself a very feminine woman in that way.

BD:    But on the other hand, you’re a successful business woman in your business.

MP:    Oh, I’m a lousy business woman.  I’m a terrible business woman!  I hope I’m a good singer!

BD:    [Stressing the point]  But you’re making a success of your business.

MP:    That’s only because I have a very good voice and people want the best that they can get.  But I’ve never been a business woman or an ambitious woman as much as a career woman.  I’ve always been rather lazy in that aspect of life.  Okay, I’ve got a good voice.  If it’s that good, they’ll want me.  If it’s not, then they won’t want me, and if they want me for that role, they will ask me for that role.  But I have never ever gone and auditioned to anybody.  I’ve never tried to be in the right place at the right moment.  I’m a very introverted person as far as that’s concerned, and could never do it.  So I’d be an ideal wife for somebody who doesn’t want a women’s lib!  [Laughs]

BD:    But you wouldn’t give up your career for someone, would you?

MP:    Not anymore.  I’m too old.  I don’t think so.  If Mr. Right came in through the door tomorrow, I don’t know.  It’s very possible that I would, but I don’t know.  That test would have to be put to me. 

BD:    That really would put you in the spot, wouldn’t it?

MP:    No, it wouldn’t put me in a spot.  The only thing that would put me in a spot, maybe, is if the right man came along and we got married.  After years of living on my own and earning my own bread and butter and deciding on what I’d spend my money on, I wouldn’t readily enjoy a man telling me that I couldn’t go out and buy a pair of shoes.

BD:    It doesn’t upset you, though, not to be married?

MP:    No.  It did at first because in one of the new productions I did, the rest of the cast would come with their wives or their husbands, and they would be able to go home after the party or whatever and discuss the production.  I was there on my own and I just went home and had my own four walls.  But that sounds terribly sad and miserable.  It’s something that I learnt to live with, and I’m certainly not unhappy about that anymore.  It did hurt at the beginning, but not anymore.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Do you do any contemporary music?

MP:    I’ve done a great deal, yes.  Well, it depends what you mean by contemporary music.  What I call contemporary music – twentieth century music – is now, of course, classical. 

BD:    If you’re talking about Strauss and Schoenberg, yes. 

MP:    Yes, exactly.  [Both laugh]  I did a lot of the Second Viennese School during one part of my career.  I still do a lot of Berg and Schoenberg, but as I say, that’s really classical music now.


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BD:    Would you ever sing Lulu?

MP:    I recorded the Lulu Suite with Abbado many years ago.  The dog I had before Contessa, was born when I was recording the Lulu Suite, and I named her Lulu.

BD:    Is that how you measure your life
in various dogs?

MP:    No, not really but it just so happened those two came that way.  I wanted desperately to sing Lulu, and the Welsh Opera Company were doing a new production of it.  But the producer just didn’t see me as a Lulu, so he took an American girl instead, who I didn’t think was a Lulu either!

BD:    Maybe you could do it on record?

MP:    I don’t know.  I’m not sure that I want to do it anymore.  It’s past that.  There are other things that I want to do more than singing that kind of music.  There is a piece, however, that I do want to record some time that requires a lot of work, and that’s The Book of the Hanging Gardens of Schoenberg.  That’s one piece in my repertoire that I’ve not yet recorded, and I would love to do that just to put it down in the annals of whatever I’d done.  But it requires a lot of work with the pianist because it’s too intricate and too complicated to just simply put together a couple of days before the recording session.  It is not one where he goes and learns his part and I go and learn my part, and then you sort of jam it together.  It’s a kind of piece that improves on working a lot together.

BD:    Are there no broadcast tapes that exist?

MP:    Yes, there are quite a few broadcast tapes.

BD:    Would one of those not that suffice?

MP:    They’re not in stereo.  They can always juggle with them these days, of course.  They can do miracles.  I think the last time that I did it for the BBC was the opening series of concerts that they did from the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and that was, I think ’65.  I’ve got a feeling that was the last time I sang it.


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BD:    Is it difficult, especially in Mozart, to go from singing to speaking in Abduction and the Magic Flute?

MP:    Yes!  I don’t know why it should be because singing is only an artificial step beyond speaking, but somehow it is.  When you first start to do a piece like Pamina, it’s difficult.  The very first thing she does in the whole opera is a three-, four-, or five-minute dialogue – depending on the cuts
with Papageno.  After that, you have to be poised enough to sing the duet, and curiously enough he’s written it in a strange part of the soprano’s voice.  I always used to find a little tricky, in as much as a bit low after you’d been speaking.  But the other horrible thing about singers speaking on stage is they tend to be terribly dramatic!  [Imitates a dramatic Pamina speaking the dialogue]  Mother, mother, mother!  [Both laugh]  It becomes terribly comic after a while.  

BD:    Should singers then, especially the ones who sing those kinds of roles, take acting lessons?

MP:    Who would teach them, other than an actor?  [Pauses a moment]  Most singers, you see, are too mean to do something like that.  I speak against my colleagues, but they think that once they’ve learnt something, it’s learnt.  They never actually go back and revise anything and re-study anything.  I don’t know whether it’s because they don’t get paid enough or whether they think they’ve done it so they know it.  I don’t know what the psychology is behind it.

priceBD:    For a revival, do they just pick up the score and brush it up and it’s done?

MP:    Right!

BD:    You don’t do that?

MP:    I don’t do that, no.  Not that I’m a goodie-goodie, it’s just my way of working.  I’ve always done that.  I’ve always been taught to do that.  We’re coming back to the financial thing.  I don’t have immediate financial responsibilities other than myself to have to think about, therefore I can spend that money on working with a coach, or going to an actor saying to spend a couple of hours with me.  I want to do it professionally, therefore we talk about the fee they give me a few lessons on how to do this.  That I would certainly do, and I have done all my life, but I’m afraid singers don’t tend to do that.  It’s a pity.

BD:    Are we, the public, getting short-changed?

MP:    No, I don’t think you’re getting short-changed.  That’s going perhaps a little bit too far the other way.  But for their own progress, for their own development, it would be better for them if they actually went to a coach to brush up because you forget an awful lot.  You’re running around the place, you get into bad habits of singing things in a way that maybe they shouldn’t be.  If you’ve got a cold and therefore you’re singing through a cold or over a cold, you resort to tricks of the trade that should only be for that performance.  You should then take a few days off until you’ve got over that cold, or over whatever the problem is, and then restudy that bit.  Be aware that you did something that was not right or that you shouldn’t have done.  You had to do it to get over that particular problem on that night, but that shouldn’t become a regular habit.  There’s where it’s important to go to someone just to brush it up, just to go through it.  If you’re a clever person, you should know where the places were that weren’t as good as they ought to be, or where you’ve played a little trick on yourself in order to get over a difficulty.  But if you don’t correct that, then it becomes a habit that you will never get over, and the more you do it, you’ll never get out of it as you rely on that for each performance.  You think,
Oh gosh, this is coming up, that is coming up. What did I do in the last performance?  Oh, yes, I did that, and so you resort to an easy way of getting over that problem.

BD:    I would think, too, that after you’ve been singing for two or three years and you come back to a part, you will have gained so much more experience. You could bring more to the part if you restudy it from the bottom up, rather than just repeating what you did earlier on.

MP:    Yes, theatrically one brings more to a role each time you do it.  But the dangerous part for any singer is the vocal part slipping because one doesn’t take the time to re-polish.  If you’ve got a piece of silver and you don’t polish for a year, it gets tarnished.

BD:    Is singing like an athletic contest?

MP:    Yes, very much so.  Not a contest but it’s certainly a muscular form, like an athlete.  That is also a very fine analogy.  A singer is very much like an athlete.  An athlete wouldn’t go and run a mile on a damaged Achilles heel.  Why should a singer go through a performance with, maybe, laryngitis or tracheitus or something like that.  People expect them to, and they do.

BD:    So the old idea that ‘the show must go on’ is a mistake?

MP:    Right.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Where’s opera going?

MP:    I am not quite sure where it’s going.  It has so many evil influences coming into it, but I suppose in a way it always has.  In one part of the century you’ve had the Prima Donna making stipulations that ruined the opera. Then you’d get the tenor making his stipulations, which would ruin the opera.  Then you’d get the conductor, and now it’s the turn of the producer.  So I honestly don’t know where we’re going.

BD:    Are you not optimistic about the future of opera?

priceMP:    It will always continue to be there.  Experimenting is a good thing, but so long as we have producers who want to go a little over the board with their experiments at the sake of the music, then I don’t think it’s a good thing.  And so long as you get artists who hold a gun to the management’s head when making particular demands, I don’t think that’s a good thing either.  I was brought up in a Mozart ensemble, so I don’t think that way.  I suppose if I’d been brought up at the top, right from the start as a Verdi heroine, maybe I’d think that way as well?  I don’t know.

BD:    You’re moving more into the Verdi now?

MP:    Yes, and I’m doing a little Strauss.  I’m singing Ariadne and I’m singing Norma, which is a great thrill.

BD:    Norma is a huge role!

MP:    Yes.  She is a nice person though.  She’s not evil.  Only when you really press her and do something that’s not nice will she become nasty.  She’s been very sweet and nice to Adalgisa.  She said,
Okay, if you don’t want to stay here as a priestess, I understand.  You can go.  Then when she finds out that she’s had a love affair with her – can’t call him her husband as he’s not, so I don’t know what you’d call him – she says,Okay, you can have him but provided you take the children as well.  So she really is quite a modern lady, quite nice.  It’s only when Pollione starts wagging his nasty little finger at her that she says, Down, boy!  [Both laugh]

BD:    It’s a very long part, isn’t it?

MP:    It is the longest, I think.  Oh, she sings and sings and sings.

BD:    Absolutely.  Lilli Lehmann once said that she would rather sing the three Brünnhildes than one Norma!

MP:    Yes, it’s a different kind of role.  My voice is more on the Italian side than it is on the German side.  I’m not one of these
beefy belters, as I call them.  I like to produce beautiful sounds as far as possible.  It’s not always physically possible because I’m not a machine and I’m not a recording, therefore I have my own weaknesses.  I can’t continually go every night to produce beautiful tones.

BD:    But you try!

MP:    But I try!  That’s my aim in life.  I do try to do that, whereas with Wagner it’s not necessarily the quality but the quantity that counts.  With Bellini it’s still the quality of the sound, not necessarily the quantity.  It’s great if you’ve got both but it’s not absolutely necessary.  I think Norma can be sung by a voice like mine.  The only problem I think that ruined it for people like me is that everyone has got in their ears Callas’s interpretation of Norma, and that’s only what her fans will accept.  There have been others who sing it more lyrically.  Joan Sutherland, for example, is a great Norma.  She doesn’t go storming around the stage making big, big noises.  Therefore I think it can be sung very, very much so with a lyric voice.

BD:    Any other new parts on the horizon for you?

MP:    Yes, I’m going to be doing Trovatore.  I just take things very easily as they come.  I don’t plan things as to what I want to do, and I’m going to do that at such and such a time.  People ask me what would you like to do, and I think, my goodness, I don’t know!  I really don’t know.  I tend to want to do what I’m doing now.  When Trovatore was suggested, I said it was not a piece for me.  I knew I could not sing the cabaletta.  I’m not a ‘bird warbler’!  So I turned down a great offer to do Trovatore but it kept coming back.  It’s very strange.  So I decided to study the cabaletta.  I gave a concert for Prince Rainier of Monaco in August, and he asked me if I’d give an operatic concert for him, so I said, okay.  I decided, all right, in goes in that first aria and we’ll see what it’s like, and it was super!  [Both laugh]  I enjoyed it!  I enjoyed it very, very much, so I’m going to open the Vienna State Opera season with Abbado conducting and Ponnelle producing a new production of Trovatore

BD:    Will you be back in Chicago, I hope?

MP:    I hope so.  Ardis Krainik is going to have a little chat with me one of these days before I leave, and see if we can come up with something.

BD:    How do the different houses affect your vocal production, if at all?

MP:    That’s always of interest.  There are certain pieces, for example, that I would attempt to sing in a small theater which I would not attempt to sing in a large theatre, like Norma or Aïda.

BD:    But you did Aïda in San Francisco!

MP:    It was the first time I ever sang it, and I was not too happy with my singing of it there.  I would prefer to save it for a smaller theater until I’ve got more performances under my belt and I know how to control my own emotions in singing.

priceBD:    I just don’t see Aïda on the stage at Glyndebourne.

MP:    No, I don’t either, although they’re doing very peculiar things there these days.  They’re doing Carmen, which I cannot see on the Glyndebourne stage, and all sorts of peculiar things.  It’s going a little away from what it was originally intended for, I’m afraid.  It’s a very small stage.  I did most of my Mozart things there at the beginning.  Norma I wouldn’t do on a big stage, not at the moment; not until I’ve really got more performances under my belt.  Curiously enough, one tends to sort of think of the Met as being an enormous barn, but when you’re standing there and you’re singing, you can sing with your own natural voice and without forcing, and one’s voice does actually go over and everyone can hear.  I was very, very nervous about the Met a few years ago when I went to hear a performance there, and a singer who shall be nameless – a friend of mine – was singing, and I was terrified because where I was sitting, I could not hear her.  That worried me as to what on earth I could ever sing there because most of the roles that they’ve asked me to do have been whoppers! 

BD:    How does the theater here in Chicago compare with those other houses?


MP:    Chicago is also very large, very large indeed.  I don’t know whether it’s the sets in this particular production, but they tend to be closed, so that is pushing the voice forward.  That is a great help.

BD:    Many of the singers have told me it’s a nice acoustic here.

MP:    I find it a nice acoustic, I must say.  I don’t particularly have a problem with it.

BD:    Do the audiences change from city to city, or from country to country, or from continent to continent?

MP:    Yes they do, in their appreciation of an artist – by their applause or their non-applause.  It does vary very much.  It also varies in every single country that I’ve ever sung in.  A first night audience is normally what we call a stuffy audience.  They tend to be there for one reason, and one reason only it seems to us who are performing for them, and that’s to be seen rather than to see the opera.  They come in all their jewelry, and they can’t possibly applaud as they’d knock their fingers to bits.  [Both laugh]  That’s not typically American, that’s everywhere.  That’s in Paris, that’s in London, that’s in Munich.  In every city in the world you have a first night audience.

BD:    For all of us who appreciate your artistry, let me thank you for being a singer!

MP:    Ah!  [Laughs]  I enjoy it.  Sometimes I wish that I was something else.  There’s lots of hard work.  You have worries whether you’re going to have a cold or you’re going to be sick or all sorts of extraneous things.  A mother can come to the opera house to dress you, let’s say.  Her children came home with a cold, the mother gets the cold, the next thing is you get the cold.  That’s opera!  That’s this business.

BD:    If you weren’t a singer, what would you be?

MP:    Well I always wanted to be a biology teacher.  That was my great ambition in life before I took up singing.   On my really bad days I wish I had taken up being a teacher because then it is only a 9-to-4 job, five days a week with lots of holidays.  No great responsibility.  Teaching children these days is, sure, a very great responsibility, and with the lack of money in the schools it’s horrendous to hear that they don’t even have enough books per person to study with.  It’s terrible.  But in my saner moments, I think about the boredom of that and the excitement of the job that I’ve got, not to talk about the difference in the financial level, which is considerable.

BD:    Thank you for letting me chat with you!

MP:    You’re welcome

BD:    And thank the dog for being quiet...

MP:    Ah, she was very quiet, yes.  I fed her before you came so she’s having her sleep.  She’s very good, very well behaved.






Margaret Price Dies at 69, Soprano With Rich Voice

By ZACHARY WOOLFE
Published in The New York Times, February 1, 2011

Margaret Price, the Welsh soprano who brought a voice of pure, floating richness to lieder and the operas of Mozart and Verdi, died on Friday in Wales. She was 69.

Her death was confirmed by Paul Jenkins, a funeral home director. The BBC reported that she died of heart failure at her home near Cardigan, overlooking the Irish Sea.

Ms. Price was known for the clear beauty of her voice and the modest eloquence of her interpretations. After a recital at Carnegie Hall in 1985, Tim Page wrote in The New York Times, “Her voice has both majesty and intimacy — an all but impossible combination — and her artistry seems capable of illuminating every human truth.”

Margaret Berenice Price was born on April 13, 1941, in Blackwood, Wales. Her father was an amateur pianist who would accompany his daughter in songs when she was young but opposed the idea of a singing career, and she initially planned on becoming a biology teacher. Her music teacher interceded and brought her to audition at Trinity College for the eminent choral conductor Charles Kennedy Scott, who offered her admission on the spot.

She began her career as a mezzo-soprano, making her operatic debut in 1962 as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Marriage of Figaro” at the Welsh National Opera. Her audition for London’s Royal Opera House featured the unlikely combination of Cherubino’s charming “Voi che sapete” and the seething “O don fatale” from Verdi’s “Don Carlo.” It was these two composers, if not these parts, with whom she became most closely associated.

The company hired her as an understudy, over the objections of the music director, Georg Solti, but in June 1963 she had a career breakthrough when she replaced an indisposed Teresa Berganza as Cherubino.

She developed her luminous upper register and gradually moved into the soprano repertoire under the guidance of James Lockhart, the conductor and accompanist with whom she had a long professional and personal relationship.

She sang her first Verdi role, Nanetta in “Falstaff,” in Wales in 1969, the same year she made her American debut in San Francisco as Pamina in “The Magic Flute.” She sang for the first time in Cologne as Donna Anna in “Don Giovanni” in 1971, the beginning of several happy years when her career was based there.

In 1973 Ms. Price made her debut at the Paris Opera, where she sang two of the roles that would become her trademarks: Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello” and the Countess in “The Marriage of Figaro.” She performed both parts in the company’s acclaimed 1976 American tour.

She made a belated debut at the Metropolitan Opera, as Desdemona, in 1985, and returned as Elisabetta in “Don Carlo” in 1989. She spent much of the later years of her career in Munich, where she lived and where the Bavarian State Opera gave her the title “Kammersängerin,” honoring her service to the company. She was made a dame of the British Empire in 1993.

Despite her success in opera, her great love was lieder, and she released classic recordings of songs by Brahms, Schubert, Mahler and others. She preferred piano accompanists to conductors, whom she called “my pet hates,” but she worked closely with some of the century’s greatest, from Otto Klemperer, who cast her in the small role of Barbarina in his 1970 recording of “The Marriage of Figaro” and as Fiordiligi in his 1972 “Così Fan Tutte,” to Claudio Abbado and Riccardo Muti. And long after he expressed reservations about her in those first Covent Garden auditions, Georg Solti collaborated with her on several performances and recordings.

In 1982, Carlos Kleiber cast her against type as a radiant Isolde in his recording of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” which became one of her best-loved performances, though she never attempted the role onstage. Indeed, Ms. Price chose her parts carefully and retired them promptly when she outgrew them.

She left her core repertory — the Mozart heroines and four or five Verdi roles — only for Adriana Lecouvreur and Strauss’s Ariadne. The single role she regretted never trying was Lady Macbeth, and a Covent Garden “Norma” in 1987 was a rare misstep.

Ms. Price leaves no immediate survivors; her younger brother died several years ago. A shy, down-to-earth woman, she retired in 1999 to the Welsh coast, where she taught a few students and bred golden retrievers.

She professed not to miss singing at all, and was unsentimental when reviewing her career. Though Mr. Kleiber asked her to do it, she never sang the nostalgic Marschallin in Strauss’s “Rosenkavalier.” “That whole thing about turning the clock back,” she called it with mock disgust. She could never identify with that kind of regret.






© 1985 Bruce Duffie

This conversation was recorded in her apartment in Chicago on October 9, 1985.  Portions were broadcast on WNIB the following year, and again in 1991, 1996, 1997, and 1998.  This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this website at that time.  My thanks to British soprano Una Barry for her help in preparing this website presentation.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.