Sunday, September 18, 2011

From the Vault: Margarita Castro-Alberty Chante Verdi

Margarita Castro-Alberty Chante Verdi was produced on the french label Erato as a gatefold LP in 1982. The reference number is 75003. Get more information about the soprano and watch her sing "Tu al cui sguardo onnipossente" from I Due Foscari and "O patria mia" from Aida after the jump.

After first studying painting at the University of San Sebastian, the soprano Margarita Castro-Alberty transferred to the Pablo Casals Conservatory of Music in San Jaun on the advice of friends. The lyric-dramatic spinto furthered her studies at Santa Cecilia in Rome and eventually made her way to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. She was the recipient of numerous awards from the Rockefeller Foundation as well as the Guilds of Baltimore Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera. An audience member recounts a master class that she took part in: "...[the] appearance of Margarita Castro-Alberty - a spinto soprano who had a brief, worldwide career - who first appeared at a Juilliard Master Class given by Elizabeth Schwarzkopf and Walter Legge, only to be massacred by Legge for her performance of Mozart’s "Or sai chi l’onore". (After ‘coaching’ that could only be described as sadism, Legge then turned to Miss Castro-Alberty and asked her if she would sing, “Non mi dir”; she declined with considerably more dignity than had been displayed in Legge’s request.)" She sang for the first time on the Metropolitan Opera stage when she entered the National Council Auditions in April 1975 where she sang "Voi lo sapete" from Cavalleria Rusticana and "Morrò ma prima in grazia" from Un Ballo in Maschera on the finals concert alongside tenor John Aler and soprano Carmen Balthrop. In 1978 she made her professional debut in Santiago, Chile performing Verdi's Simon Boccanegra and Un Ballo in Maschera. She made her European debut in Spain singing Manuel de Falla's La vida breve and went on to France where she sang in Mozart's Don Giovanni in Lyon and Puccini's Manon Lescaut in Marseille. In 1981 she replaced an ailing Katia Ricciarelli in Verdi's I Due Foscari with the Opera Orchestra of New York. Her co-stars that evening were Carlo Bergonzi and Renato Bruson. The New York Times wrote this about the evening: "Rare enough, too, are genuine spinto soprano voices such as the evening's Lucrezia displayed. Margarita Castro-Alberty, who was replacing Katia Ricciarelli in the role, began the evening nervously, and perhaps therefore took a while to find the center of the note. Intonation problems, however, cleared up and before long it was obvious that despite or even because of a certain healthy crudeness she was going to provide a lot of vocal excitement. Miss Castro-Alberty's top register was splendidly clean and penetrating: she easily carried over the big ensembles in the second and third finales, and her vengeance aria roused the audience to a frenzy." Her Metropolitan Opera debut was on November 6, 1982 singing the role of Amelia in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera with Maestro Giuseppe Patanè. It was again a sick Katia Ricciarelli that allowed for Castro-Alberty to make her debut. She went on to sing three more performances of Ballo with conductor Anton Guadagno and in January 1983 she sang the role of Leonora in Verdi's Il Trovatore with Ermanno Mauro, Juan Pons, Fiorenza Cossotto and conductor Nello Santi. In the fall of 1983 she performed two performances as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with Carol Neblett, Paul Plishka, Kathleen Battle and Gösta Windbergh (making his MET debut) with Jeffrey Tate taking on conducting duties in the orchestra pit. That was the last time she sang at the MET. She was a favorite at prestigious music events like the Casals Festival, Festival d'Orange and Festival of Opera de Bilbao. Her repertoire was heavily based on the composers of Verdi (of which she sang all the major soprano roles in her homeland of Puerto Rico) and Puccini, but she also sang the title role in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia. It was France that she loved performing the most in because, "It was indescribable the feeling when you get an ovation just by the mention of your name." Her discography was limited to this album of arias for Erato and two discs for the Dante Records LYS label (one was songs of Portugal and Argentina for voice and piano, while the other was the complete songs of Joaquín Rodrigo). Today she is retired and is the head of the voice department at the University of Puerto Rico. [Source, Source, Source, Source, Source, Source]