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Oralia Dominguez (Mezzo-soprano)

Born: October 25 (or 15), 1927 - San Luis Potosí, Mexico
Died: November 25, 2013 - Milan, Italy

The Mexican mezzo-soprano, Oralia Dominguez, was born at San Luis Potosí, north of Mexico City. Her father wanted her to be a teacher, but one of her own teachers encouraged her to enter singing competitions. studied at the National Conservatory in Mexico City, where she made the acquaintance of the composer Carlos Chavez who championed her career. During he studies there she made her first appearance as a singer in Debussy's La Damoiselle élue. In 1945 made her debut in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.

Oralia Dominguez made her professional stage debut at the Mexico City Opera in 1950. In 1951 she sang the role of Amneris in Aida for the first time at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City with Maria Callas in the title role, Mario del Monaco and Giuseppe Taddei under the direction of Italian conductor Oliviero De Fabritiis. - this was the occasion when the Greek soprano first reached a high E flat, not written by Verdi, at the end of the second act, an achievement that she was later to repeat in Europe and on disc. A recording of this performance has circulated since that time and is still regarded as one of the most exciting performances of this very popular opera on record.

The first concert of Oralia Dominguez’s European debut tour - a recital at the Wigmore Hall in January 1953 - drew rapturous reviews. She then toured in France, Spain, Germany, and the Netherlands. Later that year she first appeared as Princess de Bouillon in in Adriana Lecouvreur at Milan's La Scala, with Renata Tebaldi, and performed with the company in Verdi's Requiem at the Lucerne Festival. She recorded Verdi’s Requiem the following year under the direction of Victor de Sabata.She then sang opera in Naples, Brussels, Vienna, and Paris. In 1954, she appeared throughout Europe with such conductors as Tullio Serafin, Igor Markevitch, Paul Kletzki and Herbert von Karajan.

In January 1955, Oralia Dominguez made her debut at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in the world premiere of Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage, conducted by John Pritchard. She sang the role of Madame Sosostris, a clairvoyant based on the character in TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. “I can only say that I know my part,” she said of the complex opera. “The music is most interesting but I cannot talk about anything else. I am not even sure why my face is painted blue.” That summer she sang Mistress Quickly in Glyndebourne’s production of Falstaff at the Edinburgh Festival under Carlo Maria Giulini. It was a role that, in Spike Hughes’s words, “she immediately claimed as her own and rightly monopolised in all subsequent Glyndebourne productions of the opera”.

Oralia Dominguez appeared regularly at the Glyndebourne Festivals from 1955 to 1964. In 1962 she spent a Glyndebourne season under a silly headdress as Arnalta in Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, conducted by John Pritchard, which she would revive the following two seasons. Among her other roles there Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri. By the mid-1960’s she had all but vanished from the British stage, spending most of her time with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf, of which she was a member from 1960. She did, however, return to Covent Garden in 1967 to sing Mistress Quickly in Verdi’s Falstaff, this time opposite Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s Sir John. She appeared with the Lyric Opera of Chicago in Igor Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex.

Oralia Dominguez was blessed with a naturally powerful voice, described by some as voluptuous, and in the lower registry her tone was imbued with a deep and resonant colour. Among the conductors she recorded with were Leonard Bernstein and Herbert von Karajan. She threw herself into difficult roles with boundless energy. If the complex symbolism of The Midsummer Marriage was baffling to those who spoke English (Joan Sutherland), for Dominguez - who spoke not a word - it was incomprehensible; she later admitted that she had learnt her words parrot-fashion and concentrated instead on the music. Meanwhile, at Glyndebourne, where the cast traditionally enjoy some of the best after-show parties in the industry, Dominguez became well known backstage for her racy Mexican songs and dances. She also appeared as soloist with major orchestras and as a recitalist. Her farewell performance was in Verdi’s Requiem in Mexico City in 1982. In retirement she lived in Milan.

Oralia Dominguez’ recorded legacy includes the role of Erda in Herbert von Karajan's recording of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen with the Berliner Philharmoniker. She recorded also Antonio Vivaldi's Juditha triumphans (under Alberto Zedda). Her other recordings, mainly live performances, include Aida, La Gioconda (La Cieca), Il tabarro, Un ballo in maschera, Trovatore, Tippett's Midsummer Marriage (Madame Sosostris), Verdi's Requiem, Mozart's Requiem, Rossini's Petite messe solennelle, De Falla's El amor brujo, Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Johannes Brahms' Alto Rapsody. She recorded Carmen (excerpts in French) and a recital of arias (Donizetti, Rossini, Cilea, Verdi) made early in her career by Deutsche Grammophon which has been reissued.

More Photos

Source: Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997); Obituary in The Telegraph (December 2, 2013); Wikipedia Website (November 2013)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (September 2007, December 2013); Manfred Krugmann (Dates & Photo 03, November 2013)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Herbert von Karajan


BWV 243 [1st]

Nicola Rescigno


G.F. Handel: Opera Alcina, HWV 34 [Bradamante]

Links to other Sites

Oralia Dominguez (Wikipedia)

Oralia Dominguez - Obituary (The Telegraph)

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