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Oralia Dominguez



Born: October 25, 1925; Died: November 25, 2013

Oralia Dominguez, who has died aged 88, was Mexico's great maverick mezzo-soprano, whose portrayal of Mistress Quickly in Verdi's Falstaff at the 1955 Edinburgh Festival remains a cherished memory for those old enough to remember it.

That was also the time of Maria Callas's solitary Edinburgh appearance - in Bellini's La Sonnambula with the Piccola Scala company - and it was inevitable that these two distinguished singers led parallel careers which converged most famously when they appeared side by side, in spitfire combination, in the Verdian roles of Aida (Callas) and the villainous Amneris (Dominguez) in Mexico City in 1951.

As a mezzo, Dominguez seldom sang heroines, and her other Verdian roles tended to be limited to the witch Ulrica in A Masked Ball and the gypsy Preziosilla in The Force of Destiny - a portrayal preserved for posterity on a lusty old Italian DVD. Like Callas, Dominguez was a virtuoso Rossinian, specialising in The Italian Girl in Algiers, to whose title role her mezzo timbres were ideally suited and in which her appearance at Glyndebourne in 1957 was a memorable triumph.

It was in one of the Glyndebourne company's last visits to the Edinburgh Festival that she appeared in Falstaff with Fernando Corena as Sir John and with Carlo Maria Giulini making his Scottish debut as conductor.

As her portrayal of Mistress Quickly at the King's Theatre quickly proved, comedy was something in which she excelled and which her many subsequent Glyndebourne performances of this role confirmed.

Her Glyndebourne portrayal of the deep-voiced nurse Arnalta in The Coronation of Poppea was another of her enduring triumphs. Monteverdi's opera was, at the time, still a great rarity, though Raymond Leppard's spangly arrangement of it and Dominguez's richly amusing appearance in it -- commemorated by the critic Desmond Shawe-Taylor's vivid description of her face as "ripe, round, and shining, like a melon that has just seen a joke" - did much to achieve its modern acclaim. It was her unconventional stage presence, indeed, which lured her to some of the striking roles that by then were becoming her speciality. Jocasta in Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex in Chicago was one of these, as was the clairvoyant Sosostris in the premiere of Michael Tippett's The Midsummer Marriage at Covent Garden, for which she learnt the complicated English text parrot-fashion and exclaimed wonderment in an interview as to why her face had to be painted blue.

But more traditional roles - Cieca in Ponchielli's La Gioconda, Marina in Musorgsky's Boris Godunov, Erda in Herbert von Karajan's recorded Ring cycle - also lay within her grasp. Born in San Luiz Potosi, she studied at the Mexican National Conservatory and made her European operatic debut as the Princess de Bouillon in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur at La Scala, Milan.

As a frequent soloist in Verdi's Requiem, she was internationally sought after for many years, and it was in this work that she bade farewell to music in 1982. Thereafter she spent her retirement in Milan.

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