In the hubbub of reactions to the death of Teresa Berganza, to take up the book that Olivier Bellamy devoted to him in 2013, the fruit of uninterrupted discussions which give insight into the personality of one of the greatest figures of 20th century opera. “Teresa was always full of life, warmth, enthusiasm…”. With a loving ear, the author contemplates the Spanish singer treading lightly, with “emotion, spontaneity, humour”, the paths of her life and her career. Classified by theme – childhood, conductors, Carmen, love, Maria Callas, staging, family, haute couture… – the words of the “impatient divine” faithfully transcribed trace his journey better than any Wikipedia entry.
“Divine impatient”, we must seek the origin of this nickname in the woman more than the artist. Born March 16, 1933 in Madrid to a mother imbued with bourgeois common sense and a culture-loving father, she had become somewhat by chance the pupil of Lola Rodríguez Aragón (1910-1984) who had chosen to flatter her “natural color of mezzo” rather than pulling her towards the roles of lyric soprano, which her high register – up to E flat – amply authorized. Endowed with two guardian angels, “Rossini for technique, agility and Mozart for style, soul” and above all with an extraordinary personality, Teresa Berganza quickly established herself as “the mezzo-soprano of the century”. . Aix-en-Provence first, in 1957, (Gabriel Dussurget when auditioning exclaims “But it’s the voice of Malibran!”), then Milan and Buenos Aires – his two favorite theaters -, New York , London, Vienna, Paris… The greatest opera houses in the world acclaimed his Dorabella, Cherubino, Rosina, Cenerentola… Joseph Losey asked him to be Zerlina on the big screen when he started filming Don Giovanni. Maria Callas begs her to sing Adalgisa alongside her Norma. Riccardo Muti, on his knees in front of her, finds that she is the incarnation of Mozart. After a stormy first encounter, Karajan succumbs in turn.
Mother of three children, grandmother whose worst moment in her life was the illness of her granddaughter Sofia, wife in the plural, greedy lover, disinterested friend, passion drives her but reason guides her. Judicious artistic choices preserve for forty years the beauty of the song, Apollonian by the solar worship returned to the music and by the absence of artifices. Carmen – “of the century” according to Karajan – will be the only limit she will allow herself to exceed. The lyrical world, amazed, realizes that the most famous gypsy in the repertoire can exude a torrid sensuality without giving in to the sirens of vulgarity.
Are these few considerations borrowed from the discovery in the company of Olivier Bellamy of a “World inhabited by song” enough to decipher a legend whose record today perpetuates the testimony? Failing that, listen again to some of the integrals that must be included in any discotheque: The Barber of Seville and The Cenerentola directed by Claudio Abbado, the first milestones of a Rossinian renaissance which did not go beyond semiserio (rightly as this voice, however exceptional it may be, seems to us because of its temperance, far from the territories marked out by Isabella Colbran, Rossini’s muse – and wife –), Carmen of course (again Abbado), Mozart whenever possible and, less expected but equally remarkable, Don Quixote by Massenet. Among other treasures lavished by a diva that we want to qualify as a solitaire, since according to Barbey d’Aurevilly, it is the most beautiful tribute that one can pay to a diamond.
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Teresa Berganza, the solitary diva | Forum Opera
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