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Magda Olivero


Magda Olivero,nèe Maria Maddalena Olivero, (Saluzzo, March 25,1910 - Milan, September 8, 2014) is an Italian soprano.

She had a complete musical studies (piano, harmony and composition) before undertaking voice lessons in Turin, with Luigi Ricci and Luigi Gerussi.

She made her radio debut in 1932 as Mary Magdalene in The sorrowful mysteries of Nino Cattozzo (1886-1961), and the year after at the Teatro Vittorio Emanuele in Turin in Gianni Schicchi by Puccini . Her career finally seems to stop in 1941, the year of his marriage with Aldo Busch. Ten years later, in February 1951, Magda Olivero again returns to the stage at the Teatro Grande in Brescia, under the request of Francesco Cilea, who regarded her as his ideal interpreter for the leading role of his opera Adriana Lecouvreur, to be considered as one of her flagships.

From 1951 until her final retirement, she sang in opera houses around the world focusing especially in the repertoire of Puccini and Verismo. She appeared in London as Mimi in 1952 during an Italian season at the Stroll Theatre. Her Adrianna at the 1953 Edinburgh Festival brought more warm reviews. Further appearances in Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Buenos Aires. The essence of verismo, Olivero won an enthusiastic following during her exceedingly long career. Colleagues who found much to criticize in other artists reserved special approval for Olivero, whose art and integrity they valued. Among her most renowned interpretations were the leading parts in Adriana Lecouvreur, Mascagni's Iris, Fedora, La bohème, Minnie in La fanciulla del West, La traviata, La Wally, Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Mefistofele, and Turandot (as Liù), Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, Puccini's Giorgetta and Tosca. She also devoted herself to contemporary works such as operas by Francis Poulenc and Menotti. When she made her American debut as Cherubini's Medea at Dallas in 1967, audiences who had known her only as a name were transfixed by her singing and acting, criticism claims that his Medea is the only one that can work alongside of Callas.

In 1971 she perfomed in the New York Philharmonic Hall in the United States, interpreting arias by Puccini and Cilea and sneaking in the second half, The human voice Poulenc. The American audience tributed her an applause lasting 20 minutes at the end of the show.

her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in the role of Tosca, conquering the critics and the American audience. The singer performed in the USA again for the next five years, with an increasing success.

Her ritirement from the stage took place in Verona in 1981, with “The human voice” by Poulenc, but her was not been interrupted: her public performances continued until the beginning of the 90s. In 1993, she recorded, in Milan, a selection of Adriana Lecouvreur, sixty-one years after her debut.

In April 2009, 99 years old, in the great hall of the Palazzo Cusani Milan, Magda Olivero sings "Paul, give me peace" by Francesca da Rimini Zandonai, stunning the audience. On March 20, 2010 Magda Olivero held in a theater an interview for about three hours.

On the occasion of reaching the milestone of 100 years, the Loggione telecast aired on Canale 5, an entire broadcast dedicated to her. It was also celebrated on April 14, 2010 from the Teatro Regio in Turin.

On 7 May 2010 she participated in the program "Cominciamo bene - Prima" on RAI led by Pino Strabioli, together with the pianist Arturo Annecchino.

In 2011, She was interviewed for her 101st birthday on the radio program of “Radio Rai su Radio Tre, La Barcaccia”.

Vocal and Interpretation

With an exemplar breath technique, which allows to perform delicate spinning, and a solid musicianship, Magda Olivero has been able to maintain, if not improve her vocal qualities for a period of time which is almost twice the normal duration of a career in the field of opera singing.

Her voice is instantly recognizable, for her clear pronunciation and especially for her extreme flexibility in changing the intonation and the dynamics according to the needs of expression. Equally masterful is her phrasing, in whose esecution, logical and harmonious, we recognize a talent of a musician, even before a singer.

At the unusually sensual singing style, that made her a great interpreter of Puccini and Cilea, it is matched by an equally intense stage presence. Her interpretations could give rise to a collective hysteria. Others criticized her by being an excessive verist: her art remains controversial, but it does not leave you indifferent.

Rodolfo Celletti considered Olivero the greatest singer-actress of the twentieth century together with Claudia Muzio and Maria Olivero Callas.


Magda Olivero has seen very little in the studio, if we exclude the 78 laps of the first part of her career (including the famous recording of the air of the first act of La Traviata), as a complete studio recording we only have Turandot (Cetra 1938) and Fedora (Decca 1969). In 1969, for Decca, she recorded a selection of Francesca da Rimini. In 1970 she also recorded the album of sacred arias "Quando il canto è preghiera" for the label Ariston. Instead much richer are her live recordings.