Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.
Biography of Victoria de los Ángeles, Spanish soprano, was undoubtedly one of the greatest artists that opera has produced.
Her voice had an exquisite and delicate timbre. The art of María de los Ángeles was a happy compendium of the beauty of Renata Tebaldi’s vocal timbre and the dramatic power of María Callas.
Victoria de los Ángeles sang both lyrical and dramatic works with equal ease. She had a wide voice range.
Merits of the notable soprano Victoria de los Ángeles
She performed the best lyrical scenes in the world, and under the baton of the most prestigious directors.
In the history of the lyric corresponding to her time, she was part with María Callas, Renata Tebaldi and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, of the most praiseworthy soprano quartet.
Her record work includes 22 complete operas and 40 albums of various genres.
The first years in the life of Victoria de los Angeles
Victoria de los Ángeles López García was born on November 1, 1923, in Barcelona.
The birth of this magnificent singer filled the space left in the world by the recent death of the great actress Sarah Bernhart.
Her father, an Andalusian emigrant from Fuengirola, was a janitor at the University of Barcelona.
Her mother, Victoria García, was a native of Puebla de Sanabria (Zamora) and performed auxiliary tasks at the same University.
Victoria López was born in the home occupied by the López García couple, within the university complex of the city of Barcelona.
Victoria’s father was a serious man with a great natural concern to know.
The mother had always been the protagonist in the zarzuela festivals that were held every year in her town.
Victoria’s parents met and married in Barcelona. They made their home on the campus of the University of Barcelona, where their three children were born.
The godfather of the second daughter of the López García marriage was her uncle Ángel.
So, putting a little imagination to satisfy the mother and the godfather, the girl was baptized with the name of Victoria de los Ángeles.
At home, everyone was very happy; sometimes they went hungry, but no one complained. The family was very happy and the mother was always singing.
Victoria remembered when she went with her mother, very early, to clean the classrooms.
Her mother began to sing; sometimes she climbed onto one of those pulpits so that her companions could hear her better. She had such a beautiful voice …
Victoria grew up in a very cultural environment, in which the love for music, and especially for singing, was lived with great intensity within her family.
The environment was that of a family with limited resources, but possessors of great nobility.
Education received by Victoria de los Ángeles
In Barcelona, Victoria de los Ángeles attended the “Milá and Fontanals Schools”. When she was older, she and her sister Carmen remembered that at that school,
Victoria performed a Schubert composition for the first time.
During the Civil War, apart from attending school, she practiced guitar.
The weak paternal opposition was defeated and in the mentioned center she studied music theory, piano, singing, musical culture and Italian language.
In 1933, Victoria began high school studies, to the great joy of her parents, who were happy that she was able to study.
In the spring of 1936, her sister Carmen, three years older than her and her first admirer, had taken her to the Conservatorio Superior de Música del Liceo to have her voice tested.
The teacher was then the soprano Mercedes Plantada, who was very impressed and surprised by a voice of such singular beauty and so well imposed in a natural way.
But Victoria was only 12 years old, which is why the teacher recommended that she wait until she was of legal age to enroll; and, meanwhile, that no one could spoil her privileged voice.
In July 1936, Victoria was in her third year of high school when the civil war in Spain broke out.
They were almost three years of hardships and miseries of all kinds.
At the end of the war in 1939, Victoria de los Ángeles had to start over, because the previous thing was no longer valid.
Then, she concentrated fully on the study of music and was leaving aside the Institute; something she always regretted.
Her sister Carmen suggested that she perform again at the Conservatory, since she was already 15 years old and it was possible that they would admit her.
In June 1939, they both returned. So, the singing teacher was Mrs. Dolores Frau.
After listening to Victoria, the teacher predicted that if she tried hard, she would be one of the greatest singers in the world.
Victoria de los Angeles’ beginnings as a singer
Dolores Frau’s excellent recommendation made it possible for Victoria to enter the Liceo Conservatory in 1940.
Due to the excellent education received from Mercedes Plantada, Dolores Frau, Teresa García and maestro Taragó, Victoria discovered her musical vocation and in just three years she completed the studies corresponding to six years.
While she was studying at the Conservatory, her sister Carmen entered Victoria in a contest for young voices, which was broadcast on Radio Barcelona, sponsored by a brand of cognac.
Victoria was in her second year of singing at the Conservatory. Her teacher, Dolores Frau, insisted that she had to sing “La Bohème” by Puccini.
She herself was in charge of preparing and even putting makeup on for the big day.
On January 30, 1941, Victoria sang an aria from “La Bohème” with such success that she won the first prize, consisting of a glass, a thousand pesetas and attendance at an opera performance.
Since then, the role of the dressmaker Mimi was one of her favorites.
With those first thousand pesetas she bought a doll, for which she had always had a passion and had never been able to have; and a dozen eggs for her sick aunt.
Everything that she subsequently earned, until she got married, she gave to her mother, who used to accompany her on her tours.
In 1941, Victoria de los Ángeles sang for the first time at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona, accompanied by the harpist María Luisa Sánchez.
She graduated from the Conservatorio Superior de Música del Liceo in 1942 when she was 19 years old.
Beginnings as a professional singer from 1942 to 1948
In 1942, she joined the artistic group “Ars Musicae”, the first in Europe dedicated to cultivating early Spanish music.
The founder of “Ars Musicae” was José María Lamaña, a man with a passion for music who worked by day as a senior railway officer, and whose true passion was musicology.
Lamaña possessed a deep knowledge of music in general and particularly of the vocal repertoire. She welcomed Victoria like a daughter.
In the daily group sessions, Victoria was able to learn with him a wide musical repertoire that ranged from the medieval anonymous and the Spanish Renaissance, through the great masters of the Baroque, the German lied, the French composers and, obviously, the Spanish composers .
Thanks to José María Lamaña and her group “Ars Musicae”, Victoria de los Ángeles assimilated much of the immense treasure of Spanish music.
The voice of Victoria de los Ángeles spread it all over the world in her recitals, during almost 50 years of professional life.
May 19, 1944, was the day of the true debut of Victoria de los Ángeles. On that day she gave a recital at the Palacio de la Música in Barcelona.
Less than a year later, on January 15, 1945 she performed at the Liceo Theater in Barcelona.
On that great occasion she played the role of the “Countess” in the opera “The Marriage of Figaro“, by Mozart.
Shortly after, also at the Liceo Theater in Barcelona, she achieved notable success with her participation in Mozart’s “Coronation Mass”; and in the oratory “Jephté”, by Giacomo Carissimi.
In 1947, Victoria de los Ángeles definitely rose to fame, winning, by unanimous vote of the jury, the First Prize at the “Geneva International Singing Competition”.
The first thing Victoria did, from the modest little hotel where she was staying, was to phone her home and the group “Ars Musicae” to tell them that she had won.
Nobody had thought that she would achieve it, because in these contests the Wagnerian voices were better received.
But, on this occasion, the sweetness and subtlety with which Victoria sang, conquered the jury.
After this triumph, she sang at the Liceo Theater in Barcelona, the opera “Tanhauser” by Richard Wagner.
She immediately achieved three great successes: at wished Garden in London, at the Royal Albert Hall in London and at La Scala in Milan.
In 1948, the BBC in London invited her to sing the character of the gypsy Salud, from the opera “La vida breve” by Manuel de Falla.
She did it accompanied by the BBC orchestra. From then on, her career was unstoppable.
Victoria de los Ángeles married Enrique Magriñá
In 1948, she married businessman Enrique Magriñá, and left their humble family home.
They had two children. The oldest of them died in 1998. The second, suffers from Down syndrome.
Life punished Victoria de los Ángeles with force. Behind the scenes, in the lonely silence that followed applause and success, Victoria went through very tough times.
Especially when her eldest son died; and when her husband ran away with everything, and left her with what she was wearing.
International performances from 1949
In 1949, she played the role of Margarita at the Paris Opera, in Gounod’s opera “Faust”.
In 1950, she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival and at the Royal Opera House; she was the dressmaker Mimi from La Bohème by Giacomo Puccini, in London’s Covent Garden.
The 11-minute standing ovation at the end of the first of Mimí’s arias made history at the famous London Coliseum.
At London’s MGM Garden, she continued to perform regularly until 1961.
In the 1950-1951 season, in New York, she sang at Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House.
She played Margarita, from Gounod’s opera “Faust”; Madame Butterfly, from the opera by Giacomo Puccini; and Mimi, from “La Bohème” by Puccini.
Until 1961, she performed several times at the Metropolitan in New York.
There is a fact that clearly showed the spirit of Victoria de los Angeles. It was Christmas and the great Renata Tebaldi was going to play Pesaro ”in Verdi’s“ La Traviata ”at the Metropolitan in New York.
But, Renata Tebaldi had to leave New York to go immediately to Italy, because her mother had died.
Rudolf Bing, manager of the New York theater, pleaded with Victoria to replace Renata Tevaldi in “La Traviata.”
Victoria agreed immediately; and Rudolf Bing, grateful, had none other than the Singing Boys come from Vienna to dedicate some Christmas carols to her, which they did to the ovation of a devoted audience.
In just three years and only seven after her debut, Victoria de los Ángeles had already been singing in the most important theaters in the world.
Between 1950 and 1956, Victoria de los Ángeles sang repeatedly at the Scala in Milan.
Between 1952 and 1980, she was frequently invited to sing at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires.
She made her debut as “Madame Butterfly” and is remembered for her magnificent performances in “The Barber of Seville“, “Pelleas and Melisanda”, “The Wedding of Figaro” and “Lohengrin”.
In 1961, Victoria de los Ángeles sang in the role of Queen Isabel, at the world premiere of “La Atlántida”, by Manuel de Falla, at the Gran Teatro del Liceo, in Barcelona.
“La Atlántida” is a scenic cantata with music by Manuel de Falla and Ernesto Halffter.
The text consists of fragments of the epic poem by Jacinto Verdaguer, which had haunted Falla since his childhood and in which he saw all his philosophical, religious and humanistic concerns reflected.
It is a great cantata for soloists, choir and orchestra to be performed on stage.
Manuel de Falla dedicated the last twenty years of his life to this cantata.
When he died in 1946, during his exile in Argentina, he left it unfinished.
The musician Ernesto Halffter, who had been his disciple, finished it in a first version without staging.
Victoria de los Ángeles was the first Spanish singer to perform at the Bayreuth Opera Festival.
It was in the 1961 and 1962 seasons, playing the role of Elisabeth, from Tannhäuser, under the orders of Richard Wagner’s grandson.
Her great talent and her beautiful voice made her an exceptional performer who knew how to adapt to all roles, both lyrical and dramatic.
Victoria worked with the best conductors and pianists who accompanied her for much of her professional career.
She did not like to use the word “companion”, as she considered the piano to be as important as the voice; and attributed to the pianists who performed with her, fifty percent of her successes.
With the pianist Gerald Moore she made unsurpassed recordings.
Alicia de Larrocha, the most famous Spanish pianist in later years, a few months older than Victoria, also accompanied her on a recording they made for the “Odeón” house when they were both only sixteen years old.
Curiously, in Spain it was ignored for many years, with the honorable exception of the Granada Music and Dance Festival.
The Granada public was able to enjoy her art, from 1957 and then, assiduously for a dozen consecutive years.
In Granada he performed under the baton of the unforgettable Argenta and Toldrá and gave life to the first “Atlántida” by Manuel de Falla in the Monastery of San Jerónimo, in the Patio de los Arrayanes, during one of those magical sunsets in the Alhambra.
María de los Ángeles retired from opera 1979
In 1979, Victoria de los Ángeles retired from opera after starring in the role of Melisande in “Peleas y Melisande”, an opera in five acts with music by Claude Debussy.
However, Victoria de los Ángeles continues to be present without interruption in the world of opera through recitals until the beginning of 1998, when the eldest of her two children died.
It was increasingly requested by directors and entrepreneurs.
In the field of the concert she had no rival: she presented a new vision of what a singing recital is.
It began its programs with arias from the European baroque, followed by German lieder and French compositions, to end with the Spanish authors that our soprano spread throughout the world.
After several years without performing in Madrid, Victoria de los Ángeles reappeared in May 1985 with a recital, obtaining great success at the Teatro Real.
Her voice would have been special to make a beautiful duet with New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa.
In 1986 she performed in Poland, South America, Central America and Japan.
In the latter country they planted a cherry tree with her name, in Nagasaki, in recognition of her masterful performances of “Madame Butterfly” by Puccini.
On July 24, 1992, Victoria de los Ángeles went to the Gran Teatro del Liceo in Barcelona to give a recital, after 27 years of absence from this stage.
Her departure from the famous Barcelona theater was due, according to her, to the fact that her presence was vetoed by Carlos Caballé, theatrical businessman and brother of Montserrat Caballé.
On July 25, 1992, Victoria participated in the opening ceremony of the Barcelona Olympic Games.
The special attention that Victoria always devoted to lied is very remarkable, in which she shone with her own light. She gave her last recital in 1996, at the age of 72.
In April 1991, the singer-songwriter Lluis Llach presented a new LP “Torna aviat”. Victoria de los Ángeles collaborated on one of the songs: “Au blanca” (White bird).
Recordings made by Victoria de los Ángeles
Victoria de los Ángeles made the large number of recordings that are authentic references to lyrical singing. Her discography is rich and magnificent.
Just look not only at the opera titles but also at your recording partners and conductors:
- “I Pagliacci”, with Jussi Björling and Leonard Warren, directed by Renato Cellini (1953).
- “Madame Butterfly“, the first recording with Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi, directed by Gian Andrea Gavazzeni (1954).
- “La Bohème“, with Jussi Björling, directed by Sir Thomas Beecham (1955).
- “Manon”, with Henry Legay, directed by Pierre Monteux (1955).
- “Simón Boccanegra“, with Tito Gobbi and Boris Christoff, directed by Gabriele Santini (1957).
- “Carmen“, with Nicolai Gedda, directed by Sir Thomas Beecham (1958).
- “Madame Butterfly“, the second recording, with Jussi Björling, directed by Gabriele Santini (1959).
- “The Barber of Seville“, with Sesto Bruscantini and Luigi Alva, directed by Vittorio Gui (1962).
- “Cavalleria rusticana”, with Franco Corelli, directed by Gabriele Santini (1962).
- “Shéhérazade”, five Mélodies Populaires Grecques, by Maurice Ravel, with Georges Pretre, Gonzalo Soriano, Orchester de la Societe du Conservatoire Paris (1963).
- “The Tales of Hoffmann“, with Nicolai Gedda and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, directed by Andre Cluytens (1965).
- “Melodies”, with the pianist Gonzalo Soriano, a compilation of songs by French composers: Gabriel Faure, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Reynaldo Hahn. (1967).
- “Spanish songs of the 20th century“, also with Gonzalo Soriano, works by Frederic Mompou, Joaquín Turina and Xavier Montsalvatge.
Whoever has some of these recordings at home, has a real treasure.
Awards and honors received by Victoria de los Ángeles
Throughout her career, Victoria de los Angeles garnered honorable distinctions and well-deserved awards:
- The Grand Prize of the French Academy for the best album in the years 1953, 1955 and 1956.
- The Gold Medal of the Gran Liceo de Barcelona (1955).
- The Gold Medal of the City of Barcelona (1958).
- The Band of the Civil Order of Alfonso X the Wise (1962).
- The 1978 National Music Award.
- The National Music Award of Spain (1980).
- The Gold Medal of the Generalitat of Catalonia (1982).
- Invested “Doctor Honoris Causa” by the University of Barcelona (December 23, 1987). It was one of her greatest joys to see herself again in that Auditorium, where she had played so much as a child; In that same room where one day she found an old damaged upright piano full of dust, which she tried to play as best she could and took great care during the war so that no leaks fell on it.
- A tribute at the Palau de la Música in Barcelona (May 19, 1989).
- Elected Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando, Madrid (November 6, 1989).
- Prince of Asturias Award for the Arts, along with Montserrat Caballé, Teresa Berganza, José Carreras, Pilar Lorengar, Alfredo Kraus and Plácido Domingo (April 12, 1991).
Death and burial of Victoria de los Angeles
On December 30, 2004, Victoria de los Ángeles was admitted to the Teknon Clinic in Barcelona, due to severe bronchitis.
Two weeks later, on January 15, 2005, Spain woke up to the sad news of the death of its great soprano. Victoria de los Ángeles was 80 years old and one of the greatest lyrical voices of the 20th century had gone forever.
In an interview conducted by Salvador Sostres with the soprano Ainhoa Arteta and published on ABC on August 18, 2019, Ainhoa said: «I was with Victoria when she died. The last thing she did was take off her oxygen mask to sing “Si, mi chiamano Mimi” by Puccini. The doctors couldn’t believe it. This is singing. With this you are born and with this you die. »
The burning chapel was installed in the Palace of the Generalitat de Catalunya, so that the public could visit it. The funeral took place in the Basilica of Santa María del Mar in Barcelona, on January 17, 2005.
Montserrat Caballé regretted that Victoria had been better known outside of Catalonia than within. Many representatives of the cultural world highlighted their admiration for this great Spanish soprano. Among them, the artistic director of the Teatro Real de Madrid and the Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flores.
Jesús López Cobos, musical director of the Teatro Real de Madrid, said, recalling her after her death in 2005, that: “Victoria had a clear and Mediterranean timbre: the ideal Spanish voice… What impressed me most about her was her great musicality and her deep knowledge of the various styles ”.
Click here if you want to see this biography in Spanish translation.