Obituary: Morag Noble

Elizabeth Forbes
Wednesday 06 October 1993 23:02

Morag Noble, opera singer: born 12 November 1931; married Michael Gradidge; died 21 September 1993.

THE SCOTTISH soprano Morag Noble carved for herself a small but secure niche in operatic history by singing one of the four Virgins sacrificed to the Golden Calf in the British stage premiere of Schoenberg's Moses and Aaron at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 26 June 1965. The spectacular production, directed by Peter Hall and conducted by Georg Solti, aroused tremendous enthusiasm; it was performed six times that season and three times the following summer. Morag Noble sang at all performances.

After studying in Vienna, Noble embarked on a career as a concert singer; a very fine musician, with a pure-toned, lyrical voice, she frequently tackled 20th-century music, for which she had a special facility. For instance, in February 1960 at the Austrian Institute in London she sang the soprano part in Schoenberg's Second Quartet with the Pro Musica Quartet, while in January 1962 she gave a recital of songs by Pfitzner and Webern with the Park Lane Group. Courtney Kenny, her pianist at that recital, remembers with admiration her ability to make such difficult music as the Webern songs sound so comparatively easy.

The following month Noble was invited to Brussels to sing 10 performances of Constanze in Mozart's Entfuhrung aus dem Serail at the Theatre de la Monnaie. During summer 1962 she sang Echo, one of the Nymphs in Ariadne auf Naxos, at Glyndebourne. This was a revival of Carl Ebert's production of the original version of Strauss's opera, preceded by Moliere's Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (in an abridged form), and followed by a firework display in the garden.

During 1963, Morag Noble gave two London recitals at the Wigmore Hall. The first, in June, included songs by Schubert, Pfitzner and Schoenberg, while the second, in July, ranged from arias by Bach and Mozart to songs by Hugo Wolf from the Spanisches Liederbuch and Tippett's song-cycle The Heart's Assurance. As part of the ICA Festival in December 1965, between the two series of performances of Moses and Aaron, she sang several songs by the American composer Milton Babbitt in a recital at the Arts Council.

She taught singing privately while still pursuing her own career; after her retirement she became a professor at Trinity College of Music, where she was both greatly respected as a teacher and much loved as a person.

(Photograph omitted)

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