Dame Eva Turner, Wagnerian Diva, Dead at 98
LONDON (AP) _ Dame Eva Turner, a dramatic soprano of extraordinary range and power and a memorable star of Puccini’s ″Turandot,″ has died. She was 98.
Miss Turner, who had suffered a broken hip three months ago, died Saturday at Devonshire Hospital in London, said Katherine Morgan, a relative.
Blessed with a powerful voice and an extraordinary range, Miss Turner was one of the first British sopranos to achieve stardom in Europe.
″Her voice of enormous proportions in its prime, ranging from G to top D, and her generous personality were admirably suited to the dramatic soprano roles in Verdi and Wagner,″ the late Harold Rosenthal, longtime editor of Opera magazine, once wrote.
Born March 10, 1892, in Oldham, Lancashire, she joined the Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company in London in 1916. She made her debut a year later as a page in Wagner’s ″Tannhaeuser″ and rapidly took on lead roles in productions of ″Tosca,″ ″Aida″ and ″Madama Butterfly.″
Ettore Panizza, assistant to the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini, heard Miss Turner in a 1924 production of ″Madama Butterfly″ and arranged an audition.
Toscanini was enchanted.
Miss Turner made her debut at La Scala in Milan in 1924 as Freia in Wagner’s ″Das Rheingold,″ and toured with an Italian company in Germany in 1925.
″It was extremely rare for a British soprano to go abroad like that, and her becoming acknowledged on the continent really paved the way for some people in the next generation,″ said Katherine Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for the Royal Opera Company.
In Brescia in 1926 she made her first appearance in ″Turandot.″ She did not create the role but Franco Alfano, the composer who completed ″Turandot″ after Giacomo Puccini’s death, said he considered her the ideal singer for the part.
From 1950 to 1959 she was a professor of voice at the University of Oklahoma. She then returned to London and was a professor of voice at the Royal Academy of Music until 1966. She continued to coach singers until recent years.
In 1982, she was honored at a 90th birthday celebration at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, where a packed house gave her a 10-minute standing ovation. She was also made an honorary citizen of Oklahoma in that year.
She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1962, and was awarded honorary doctorates of music by Manchester and Oxford universities.
Some of Miss Turner’s performances are preserved on recordings recently reissued on compact discs. Among them are highlights of ″Turandot″ at the Royal Opera House in 1928, conducted by Sir John Barbirolli.
Ronald Crichton, reviewing the recording for The Financial Times, praised the ″glorious security and thrust″ of Miss Turner’s singing, while Raymond Monelle in The Independent said the old recordings testified to her ″shattering power.″
Miss Turner never married and left no immediate survivors.
Funeral arrangements were to be announced Monday, Miss Morgan said.