Opera Scotland

Valerie Masterson Suggest updates

Valerie Margaret Masterson.

Born Birkenhead, 3 June 1937.

English soprano.

Valerie Masterson trained in Liverpool then in London, under Gordon Clinton at the Royal College of Music and with Eduardo Asquez. This was followed by a period in Milan under Adelaide Saraceni. She then joined the Salzburg Landestheater, making her debut in 1963 as Frasquita, followed by Nannetta and Fiorilla.

On returning to Britain she joined the D'Oyly Carte company in 1966, and stayed with them until 1970, touring Britain and abroad in leading roles that included Josephine (HMS Pinafore), Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Princess Ida, Yum-Yum (The Mikado), Elsie Maynard (The Yeomen of the Guard), and Casilda (The Gondoliers). She also toured extensively with the Gilbert and Sullivan For All group.

Masterson appeared at the Camden Festival as Amenaide (Tancredi) and with the Handel Opera Society as Berenice (Scipio).

On joining Sadler's Wells in 1971, she quickly showed a particular aptitude for French repertoire, such as Adèle (Count Ory) and Eurydice (Orpheus in the Underworld). She later added roles by Gounod (Marguerite, Juliette and Mireille), Massenet (Manon), Bizet (Micaëla and Leïla) and Charpentier (Louise). Non-French parts in her ENO repertoire included Konstanze, Adele (Die Fledermaus), Woglinde and Woodbird (The Ring), Gilda, Violetta, Sophie (Der Rosenkavalier), Susanna, Oscar, Mimì, Hanna Glawari, Pamina,  Countess Almaviva, the Marschallin, the Governess, Cleopatra (Julius Caesar) and Romilda (Xerxes).

With the Royal Opera from 1974, she created Second Soldier's Wife in We Come to the River (Henze 1976) and sang Anne who Steals in the UK premiere of The King Goes Forth to France (Sallinen 1987). Other parts included Woglinde in the Ring, the title role in Semele, Marzelline, Violetta, Marguerite, Micaëla and Madame Lidoine (Dialogues des Carmélites). With Welsh National she sang Fiordiligi and Lucia, and Glyndebourne saw her as Konstanze, on tour in 1972 and at the main Festival in 1980. She sang Ilia for the English Bach Festival, and with New Sadler's Wells Opera she appeared in a rare revival of Noel Coward's Bitter Sweet.

She worked frequently in France, where engagements included Manon in Toulouse,  Marguerite at the Paris Opéra, and Matilda (Rossini's Elisabetta regina d'Inghilterra), Morgana (Alcina) and Fiordiligi at Aix-en-Provence. Her American debut was as Violetta in San Francisco, followed by Antonia in Chicago. She also appeared in Prague, Geneva, Milan (Piccola Scala), Buenos Aires and Barcelona.


Valerie Masterson toured Scotland during her years with D'Oyly Carte, as well as with the Gilbert and Sullivan For All concert parties. She seems never to have appeared at the Edinburgh Festival or with Scottish Opera. That company did announce her visit as Donna Anna (sharing the part with Jane Eaglen) in a new Don Giovanni staging in 1989, but she was ill and forced to withdraw.


It is a pity that little of the French repertoire which suited her so well seems to have been preserved on disc. There is a live recording of Faust made in the USA in 1985, and a single disc of arias. DVD recordings have been made available of the ENO productions of Julius Caesar and Xerxes, the Glyndebourne Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and a cinema film of The Mikado. The Aix Alcina was televised, though it does not seem to have been issued commercially. ENO recordings of the Ring, La Traviata and Julius Caesar have appeared on CD, as has a recording of Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra. Her Gilbert and Sullivan recordings include Melissa in Princess Ida, Aline in The Sorcerer, and her leading parts in HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.

Roles in Scotland

Gilbert and Sullivan For All 1966
Josephine the Captain's Daughter
H M S Pinafore 1967
Elsie Maynard a Strolling Singer
Yeomen of the Guard 1967
Mabel Gen Stanley's Youngest Daughter
Pirates of Penzance 1967
Yum-Yum Ko-Ko's Ward
Mikado 1967

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