Charismatic opera star Teresa Berganza dies at 89

Ms. Berganza turned to José Rifá, a Spanish priest who had long admired her singing, for spiritual guidance. He left the priesthood to m...


Ms. Berganza turned to José Rifá, a Spanish priest who had long admired her singing, for spiritual guidance. He left the priesthood to marry her and he regularly introduced himself as Mr. Berganza. They divorced after 10 years.

Complete information about the survivors was not immediately available.

Ms. Berganza made her operatic debut as Dorabella in Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” in 1957 at the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence in France. In 1958, she made her first appearance at Milan’s La Scala Theater as Isolier in “Le Comte Ory” by Rossini.” The following year, she made her debut at Covent Garden in London as Rosina in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, which would become one of her star roles. Critics raved about her rich, flowing contralto voice, which easily handled the intricate embellishments demanded of Rossini’s heroines.

In 1967, Ms. Berganza made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro”. This would become another popular role for her.

For years, Ms Berganza turned down offers to star in ‘Carmen’, saying she found the character’s complexity too daunting. She finally agreed to take it on in 1977, at the King’s Theater in Edinburgh. In preparation, she studied the 1845 short story “Carmen” by Prosper Mérimée, on which the opera was based, as well as the libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

She then spent weeks in southern Spain interviewing women living in caves outside Granada to, as she put it, “understand Gypsy life better”. Rejecting the more traditional portrayal of Carmen as a prostitute, she opted to play her instead as a rebellious gypsy. “She speaks with her heart, her body, her guts,” Ms Berganza wrote in her autobiography.

Reviewing a recital at Carnegie Hall in November 1982, Times critic Donal Henahan wrote, “Berganza’s voice, always a marvel of suppleness and dark polish, has now become, at least, more thrilling, robust and dramatic.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: Charismatic opera star Teresa Berganza dies at 89
Charismatic opera star Teresa Berganza dies at 89
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