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Teresa Berganza, Charismatic Star of the Opera Stage, Dies at 89

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Ms. Berganza turned for spiritual guidance to José Rifá, a Spanish priest who had long admired her singing. He quit the priesthood to marry her, and he frequently introduced himself as Mr. Berganza. They divorced after 10 years.

Complete details about survivors was not immediately available.

Ms. Berganza made her operatic debut as Dorabella in Mozart’s “Così Fan Tutte” in 1957 on the Aix-en-Provence Festival in France. In 1958, she made her first appearance at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala as Isolier in Rossini’s “Le Comte Ory.” The following 12 months she debuted at Covent Garden in London as Rosina in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” which might grow to be one in every of her signature roles. Critics delighted in her wealthy, fluid contralto voice, which easily handled the complex embellishments demanded of Rossini heroines.

In 1967, Ms. Berganza made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Cherubino in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.” It will grow to be yet one more popular role for her.

For years, Ms. Berganza declined offers to perform the lead in “Carmen,” saying that she found the complexity of the character too intimidating. She finally agreed to take it on in 1977, on the King’s Theater in Edinburgh. In preparation, she studied the 1845 novella“Carmen,” by Prosper Mérimée, on which the opera was based, in addition to the libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy.

She then spent weeks in southern Spain interviewing women living within the caves outside Granada to, as she put it, “higher understand Gypsy life.” Rejecting the more traditional portrayal of Carmen as a prostitute, she selected to play her as a substitute as a rebellious Gypsy. “She speaks along with her heart, her body, her guts,” Ms. Berganza wrote in her autobiography.

Reviewing a Carnegie Hall recital in November 1982. the Times critic Donal Henahan wrote, “The Berganza voice, at all times a wonder of flexibility and dark polish, has now grow to be, if anything, more excitingly robust and dramatic.”

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