Victoria de los Ángeles 1923-2005

One of Spain's greatest singers, at home in German, French, Italian, and Spanish operatic and song traditions, she burst upon the world scene with debuts in London, New York, and Milan in 1950-1. From the 1960s she reduced her opera appearances, but continued for many years in recitals. Her supremely beautiful soprano voice was matched by great skills of interpretation.

She was born Victoria Gómez Cima in Barcelona on 1 November 1923, and studied at the Conservatory there, gaining every prize available and completing the course in half the time. Her debut was in Barcelona in 1944, while still a student (in Monteverdi's Orfeo), and in January 1945 she appeared as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro at the city's Gran Teatro del Liceo. In the following couple of years she sang regularly at the Liceo, amassing many of the roles she became internationally famous for.

Her overseas triumphs began in Lisbon in 1945 with two lesser-known works (Wolf-Ferrari's Il segreto di Susanna and Pergolesi's La serva padrona); then in 1947 first prize at the Geneva International Festival, and Mimì opposite Gigli in La bohème in Madrid. In 1948 she was heard over the BBC in Salud in La vida breve, a role she became especially associated with. The following year saw extensive tours of Scandinavia, South America, and Italy.

By now she was very well-known, and still young, and rapidly stormed the great opera houses: as Marguérite in Gounod's Faust at the Paris Opéra in 1949; Mimí at Covent Garden in 1950; Ariadne in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos at La Scala later in 1950; and Marguérite at the Metropolitan in March 1951. In the same period she debuted at Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall.

She scaled down her operatic career in 1963, having lost the peak of her soprano voice, and from now on built on a mezzo fullness, and performed in smaller concerts. These continued until 1979. Victoria los Ángeles died in her home city of Barcelona on 15 January 2005. Her husband Enrique Magriñá (married 1948) predeceased her: they had two sons.

German repertoire

De los Ángeles was very strong in Wagnerian roles: it's not everyone who's comfortable playing these as well as the romantic French and verismo Italian. It was at the 1946 season at the Liceo in Barcelona that she acquired Elisabeth in Tannhäuser; then the following year Elsa in Lohengrin and Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz. In her 1949 Barcelona season she performed Eva in Die Meistersinger. In 1961 and 1962 she sang Elisabeth in Bayreuth. But as well as grand opera, she was an excellent interpreter of Lieder.

French repertoire

Two of her favourite roles, Manon and Marguérite, she sang first at the Liceo in 1946. Marguérite was her Paris debut in 1949, and she sang Manon in London in 1950. She did Mélisande in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in New York; where she was also Micaela in Carmen. In 1960 she sang the role of Carmen, in a famous recording conducted by Beecham. In her later recitals she often sang French art songs.

Italian repertoire

Mimì in La bohème was her first great Italian role: Barcelona 1945, Madrid 1946 (with Gigli), and London 1950. In 1951 at La Scala she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, under the baton of von Karajan. At the Met in New York she acquired Rosina in The Barber of Seville, Violetta in La Traviata, and Desdemona in Otello. In 1962, after ending her regular season at New York, she sang Desdemona, Donna Anna, and Mimì in San Francisco.

Spanish repertoire

There are not nearly as many great operas in Spanish, but Manuel la Falla's La vida breve was one she made her own. This was her Edinburgh Festival debut in 1958. But especially in her later career concentrating on smaller recitals, she espoused her country's national songs, both Catalan and Spanish. As a girl, before she was allowed to study singing, she had learnt the guitar, and now she often accompanied herself.

Obituary in The Independent
Everyman's Dictionary of Music
Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera
see also Gramophone obituary at

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