Opera Scotland

Eva Turner Suggest updates

Dame Eva Turner.

Born Oldham, 10 March 1892.

Died London, 16 June 1990.

English dramatic soprano.

Dame Eva Turner was one of the first British singers in the twentieth century to enjoy a prominent international career. She had a voice combining exceptional power and brilliance, which was ideally suited to the heaviest Wagnerian parts as well as the title role in Turandot, for which she became famous. It is still clear that her achievements were quite outstanding.

She grew up in Bristol, studying under Dan Rootham before a move to the Royal Academy of Music, where she trained from 1911-15 under Mary Wilson and Edgardo and Gigia Levi. At the end of that period she joined the chorus of Carl Rosa in 1916, but was quickly given small solo roles in Tannhäuser, Aïda and The Magic Flute. She soon progressed to Kate Pinkerton and First Lady. From then until his death in 1940 her main coach and mentor was Albert Richards Broad, an Australian who had recently joined the company.

Her career with Carl Rosa developed rapidly to include Micaëla, Donna Anna, Musetta, Butterfly, Giulietta, Marguerite, Arline, Maritana and Santuzza (which was the role of her Covent Garden debut, during the Carl Rosa London season of 1920). She soon added Antonia and Mistress Ford (Merry Wives) as well as heavier Italian roles such as Aïda, Amelia, Leonora and Tosca, and some of the leading Wagner parts - Venus, Eva, Elisabeth and Elsa. The next progression was to Sieglinde, and Brünnhilde in Valkyrie and Siegfried and Isolde. An established star of the provincial touring circuit, she had, as yet, scarcely been noticed by the London press.

Her career with Carl Rosa lasted eight years in all, busily touring the country, with occasional London appearances. In 1924, at a performamce of Butterfly at the Scala Theatre in London, she was heard by Toscanini's assistant, Ettore Panizza, who recommended her for an audition at La Scala, as a result of which Toscanini cast her as Freia and Sieglinde in the forthcoming Ring production.

She then joined an Italian touring company on a visit to Germany, singing Aïda, Tosca, Leonora and Santuzza in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, Frankfurt, Breslau, Mannheim, Brunswick, Bremen, Baden-Baden and elsewhere. This was followed by a South American visit, with performances in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. New parts she added on her return to Italy included Countess Almaviva, Leonora di Vargas, the Tsarina in Tsar Saltan and the title roles in La Wally, La gioconda and La fanciulla del West.

She was a member of the audience back at La Scala in 1926 to hear the first performance of Turandot, and took the name part herself a few months later at the Teatro Grande in Brescia. She first sang this part at Covent Garden in 1928 and at La Scala the following year, and it became one of her signature roles, hailed by Alfano himself as the perfect interpreter. Her Wagner repertoire also expanded, and eventually included Brünnhilde in the entire cycle.

Beginning in 1928 with Turandot, Santuzza and Aïda, she sang frequently at Covent Garden until 1948, as well as in other parts of Britain. In addition to the major Italian houses, she also appeared at Chicago, Vienna, Lisbon, Athens and Copenhagen, though never at the New York Met. Her Aïda was given in the Pasadena Rose Bowl before an audience of 30,000. She sang the title role in Mascagni's Isabeau at the Verona Arena in 1929, repeating it the following year in Rome, with Mascagni himself conducting.

From 1949 to 1959 she was a visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma, and on her return to London she became Professor of Singing at the Royal Academy of Music. She continued to teach until her death. Notable students included  Amy Shuard, Gwyneth Jones, Pauline Tinsley and Linda Esther Gray. She was made DBE in 1962.

She made recordings of a number of arias and songs, both in Italy and in Britain. Extracts from live performances of Turandot made during the 1937 Coronation season at Covent Garden have also been made available on CD. In 1938 she was one of the sixteen prominent singers included in the cast when Vaughan Williams composed his Serenade to Music for Sir Henry Wood. This was also recorded at the time.

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2018

Site by SiteBuddha