Victoria de los Ángeles

Portrait by Allan Warren

Victoria de los Ángeles López García (1 November 1923 – 15 January 2005) was a Spanish 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.

Early life

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. She studied voice under Dolores Frau, and guitar with Graciano Tarragó, at the Barcelona Conservatory, graduating in 1941 after just three years, at the age of 18.

Career in music

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 Music 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 [es] and his daughter, the guitarist Renata Tarragó.

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 or songs with Nahuatl texts by Mexican composer Salvador Moreno Manzano into the 1990s.

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.[citation needed]

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 also sang major soprano roles, the best known of which were Donna Anna, Manon, Nedda, Desdemona, Cio-Cio-San, Mimi, Violetta and Mélisande.

James Hinton, Jr. praised the curious means she used to achieve her characterisation of Rosina in the 1954 Met's The Barber of Seville:

...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 Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. Her recitals of Spanish songs with the pianist Alicia de Larrocha, a fellow Barcelona native who was her close friend, 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, Pagliacci, 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".

The government of France named her a Chevalier the Légion d'honneur in 1994.

Personal life and death

She married Enrique Magrina in 1948. He and one of their two sons predeceased her.

She was hospitalized for a bronchial infection on December 31, 2004, and died of respiratory failure on 15 January 2005, aged 81. She was buried in the Montjuïc Cemetery, Barcelona.

In her native Catalonia she usually appeared, in the post-Franco era, under the Catalan form of her name, Victòria dels Àngels.


Her obituary in The Times (UK) noted that she must be counted “among the finest singers of the second half of the 20th century". James Hinton, Jr. praised her "meltingly lovely middle voice". Elizabeth Forbes, writing in UK's The Independent, 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).

The municipal music school of Sant Cugat del Vallès is named for her (Escola Municipal de Música Victòria dels Àngels) and is located on a plaza bearing her name (Plaça Victòria dels Àngels). Several other municipalities in Catalonia have streets named after her.

Partial discography

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