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Opera Rara's First Diva

A soprano's home phone jangles on a Wednesday afternoon. The caller is a frantic artistic director with a most unusual plea. His prima donna has cancelled on opening night. It's a difficult bel canto role, one our soprano has never studied or sung - no one, in fact, has sung it in well-nigh a century. The performance is in a few hours. 'You've just got to come down and sing the part!' he cries. 
Of course, most sopranos would refuse and hang up; they might even laugh at or be insulted by such a seemingly ridiculous request. Janet Price didn't hesitate. 'I'm on my way,' she declared, and like a divatic superheroine, she flew out the door, ready to save the day. After a cursory look at some of the music, she stood to one side of the stage, sight-reading from the totally unfamiliar score while an actress mimed the role on stage.

That 1974 revival of Donizetti's Torquato Tasso was broadcast by the BBC, and recordings were issued by MRF and Unique Opera Records. Surprisingly, the liner notes gave no indication of the remarkable circumstances. Listening today to that recording, one would have no inkling that any such rabbit-out-of-a-hat substitution had occurred. Price sounds born to sing the role. 
"The most remarkable operatic feat I have ever witnessed," declared Felix Aprahamian. 
"Far from allowances having to be made, it would be impossible to imagine the part more fluently, beautifully, or stylishly sung. Miss Price has previously shown her mettle in such music: now she has also demonstrated a degree of practical musicianship unlikely to be forgotten."
Stelios Galatopoulos recalled that he only fully accepted that Price was a last-minute substitution when the woman in the seat next to him leaned over and whispered that Price obviously hadn't been to the hairdresser before the performance.

Read  the full interview with Janet Price,  by Daniel Foley and Nicholas Limansky at:











To be prepared






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