Victoria de los Ángeles
(1 November 1923 – 15 January 2005) was a Spanish Catalan operatic lyric soprano and recitalist whose career began after the Second World War and reached its height in the years from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Her obituary in The Times
(London) noted that she must be counted “among the finest singers of the second half of the 20th century". James Hinton, Jr., in Opera
magazine (London), June 1954, praised her "meltingly lovely middle voice". Elizabeth Forbes, writing in The Independent
on 17 January 2005, also noted that "It is impossible to imagine a more purely beautiful voice than that of Victoria de los Ángeles at the height of her career in the 1950s and early 1960s". She was ranked number 3, after Maria Callas and Dame Joan Sutherland, in the BBC Music Magazine's List of The Top Twenty Sopranos Of All Time (2007)In her early years in particular, she also sang a lot of florid music (music antiche
). While she later made fewer appearances in opera, she continued to give recitals focusing on mostly French, German Lieder and Spanish art songs into the 1990s.
She was born Victoria de los Ángeles López García
in the porter's lodge of the University of Barcelona to Bernardo Lopez Gómez (or Gamez), a university caretaker, and Victoria García. Her birth name has sometimes been misreported as Victoria de los Angeles Gómez Cima
. She studied under Graciano Tarragó at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in just three years in 1941 at age 18.De los Ángeles married Enrique Magriñá in 1948 and had two sons. Her husband and one of her sons died before her.She died on 15 January 2005 of heart failure in her native Barcelona, aged 81. She had been hospitalised for a bronchial infection since 31 December 2004.
In 1941, while still a student, she made her operatic debut as Mimì in La bohème
at the Liceu, afterwards resuming her musical studies. In 1945, she returned to the Liceu to make her professional debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro
.After winning first prize in the Geneva International Competition in 1947, she sang Salud in Falla's La vida breve
with the BBC in London in 1948. She was accompanied on many of her early recordings by both Graciano Tarragó and his daughter, the guitarist Renata Tarragó.In 1949, she made her first appearance in the Paris Opéra as Marguerite. The following year, she made her debut in Salzburg and at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Mimì, and in the United States with a recital at Carnegie Hall. In March 1951, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as Marguérite, and she went on to sing with the company for ten years. In 1952, she became an instant favourite in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Colón as the title role in Madama Butterfly
. She returned to Buenos Aires many times until 1979. She sang at La Scala in Milan from 1950 to 1956 and, in 1957, she sang at the Vienna State Opera.After making her debut at the Bayreuth Festival as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser
in 1961, she devoted herself principally to a concert career. However, for the next twenty years, she continued to make occasional appearances in one of her favourite operatic roles, Bizet's Carmen
. She was among the first Spanish-born operatic singers to record the complete opera, having done so in 1958 in a recording conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, using the recitatives added by Ernest Guiraud after Bizet's death. Though Carmen lay comfortably in her range, she nevertheless sang major soprano roles, best known of which were Donna Anna, Manon, Nedda, Desdemona, Cio-Cio-San, Mimi, Violetta and Mélisande. James Hinton, Jr. described her work in the 1954 Met Barbiere di Siviglia
in terms which praised her characterisation of Rosina as achieved by a curious means: "...she — almost literally – does nothing at all that is in the conventional sense 'effective'. She is rapidly becoming one of those great rarities... a personality who makes everyone believe in her characterizations. Even in that there is a flaw, for she really offers no characterization. The personality is always the same... Yet the audience believes... that this is the way whichever character she happens to be dressed as must have been..."De los Ángeles performed regularly in song recitals with pianists Gerald Moore and Geoffrey Parsons, occasionally appearing with other eminent singers, such as Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Her recitals of Spanish songs with the pianist Alicia de Larrocha were also legendary. She sang at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992, aged 68. She made many widely acclaimed recordings, including those of La vida breve
, La bohème
, and Madama Butterfly
. The last three paired her with the outstanding tenor Jussi Björling. She was particularly appreciative of Björling's unique talent. In de los Ángeles' biography by Peter Roberts, de los Ángeles noted that "in despite of technical developments, none of the Jussi Björling recordings give you the true sound of his voice. It was a far, far more beautiful voice than you can hear on the recordings he left".