Obituary: Lucia Valentini-Terrani

Elizabeth Forbes
Saturday 20 June 1998 00:02

COLORATURA mezzo-soprano was a voice category much favoured by Rossini, who wrote many magnificent roles in his operas for such a singer. Lucia Valentini-Terrani was one who took full advantage of this repertory, singing comic characters such as Cenerentola (Cinderella) for her Scala and Covent Garden debuts, in Washington, Chicago, Aix-en-Provence, and many other cities: Isabella in L'italiana in Algeri, in which she made her Metropolitan debut: and Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia.

Her voice, wide-ranging, brilliant in quality, and extremely agile, also enabled her to sing roles in Rossini's serious operas, even more florid than those in his comedies: Arsace in Semiramide, the name part of Tancredi, and Malcolm in La donna del lago, all of them trouser roles.

Lucia Valentini, as she was before her marriage to the actor Alberto Terrani, was born in Padua, where she studied at the Conservatory. She also studied in Venice, and made her stage debut in 1969 at Brescia as Cenerentola, which was to become her favourite part.

After singing it in Turin, and with the Turin company at Versailles, in 1973 she took over the role at short notice from Teresa Berganza at La Scala, and her international career was well under way. With La Scala she visited the Bolshoi in Moscow in 1974 and Covent Garden in 1976, when her singing of Cenerentola caused a furore. Meanwhile, in 1975 she made her New York Metropolitan debut as Isabella.

Valentini-Terrani also appeared in operas by composers other than Rossini: she sang Fidalma in Domenico Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto in Florence (1977), Marina in Boris Godunov at La Scala (1979), Charlotte in Massenet's Werther in Turin and Dulcinee in the same composer's Don Quichotte in Chicago; but her best non-Rossinian role was probably Mistress Quickly in Verdi's Falstaff, which she sang at Covent Garden with the Royal Opera in 1982.

That same year she appeared in Rome as Arsace, and at Pesaro during the Rossini Festival as Tancredi. At Pesaro she also sang Malcolm (1983), Melibea in Il viaggio a Reims (1984), Calbo in Maometto II (1985) and Tancredi (1991).

Other non-Rossinian roles included the title role of Ambroise, Thomas's Mignon, Bradamante in Handel's Alcina, Carmen, Gluck's Orfeo and Purcell's Dido. Valentini-Terrani returned to Covent Garden in 1987 as Rosina; her performance was well-received but not with quite such rapture as Cenerentola 11 years before or the Quickly of 1982. Her voice was as flexible as ever, but the tone was less smooth, while the top notes rang out with not quite so much clarion purity as before.

Although she stopped singing in the early 1990s, Valentini-Terrani left a splendid legacy of recordings. She can be heard in Haydn's La fedelta premiata and Il mondo della luna; and as Princess Eboli in Verdi's Don Carlos sung in French, conducted by Claudio Abbado and with Placido Domingo in the title role. However, her best recordings are, not surprisingly, the Rossini operas that she sang so often on stage.

Elizabeth Forbes

Lucia Valentini, opera singer: born Padua, Italy 28 August 1946; married Alberto Terrani; died Seattle, Washington 11 June 1998.

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