On This Day: A Look At The Opera Roles Katia Ricciarelli and Pilar Lorengar Shared

By Francisco Salazar

On Jan. 16 two of opera’s legendary sopranos will celebrate their birthdays. Pilar Lorenagr, who died in 1996 and Kata Ricciarelli. Both sopranos were recognized for their versatility and immense repertoire. While Ricciarelli focused on the Bel Canto and lyric repertoire, Lorengar delved into Mozart’s demanding works and sang multiple Wagner repertoire. She was also an expert in Zarzuela. As a result, it was very rare for the two sopranos to ever alternate roles in opera houses. However, the two did have numerous roles in common that they sang at different points in their careers.

Mimi in Puccini’s “La Bohème”

Lorengar made her role debut of Mimi at the Metropolitan Opera on her birthday in 1973. The singer became a great exponent of the role as she sang it numerous times at the Metropolitan Opera and even sang the role in German. That recording is now available for audiences to listen to the singer’s gentle voice as well as her expertise in the German language. Coincidentally Mimi was significant to Ricciarelli as it was the role of her Metropolitan Opera house in 1975. It was a role that she sang in her early career but it was also a role that launched her professional career in 1969 in Mantua.

Desdemona in Verdi’s “Otello”

One of Ricciarelli’s most famous roles was in Verdi’s masterpiece. She famously snag the role under Lorin Maazel and with Placido Domingo in Franco Zeffirelli’s film version. The film went on to get nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film. Ricciarelli went on to sing the role with the likes of James McCraken, Jon Vickers and Domingo. The role was equally important for Loreganr as she made her U.S debut and her San Francisco Opera debut in 1964. That performance the soprano sang the role with McCraken and Tito Gobbi and also went on to perform the work with James King.

Violetta in Verdi’s “La Traviata”

Perhaps one of the most iconic roles in the repertoire both sopranos sang the role of Violetta but were not very famous for singing it. Ricciarelli sang Violetta in 1976 and 1977 in Italy but never recorded it. On the other hand Lorengar recorded it with Giacomo Aragall and Dietrich Fischer-Diskeau for Decca. She sang the role in Berlin but it did not last very long in her repertoire.

Elisabetta in Verdi’s “Don Carlo”

Verdi’s most shapeshifting opera was also one of the operas that both had in their repertoire. And as it was accustomed the opera was performed in different versions. Lorengar did perform the work in Italian but her most famous performance was  Deutsche Oper Berlin in German. For her portrayal critics called her work “stunning throughout, delivering a deeply moving portrayal in radiant lyric sound.” Meanwhile Ricciarelli performed the role in her four act version and then went on to record in its original French version with Placido Domingo. The version included a number of cut pieces from the work.

Other roles that they both sang include Michaela in Bizet’s “Carmen,” and Alice Ford in Verdi’s “Falstaff.”


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