Opera Scotland

Josephine Veasey Suggest updates

Josephine Veasey, CBE (1970).

Born Camberwell, London, 10 July 1930.

Died 22 February 2022.

English mezzo-soprano.

Josephine Veasey had a fine international career as a leading dramatic mezzo-soprano, while basing herself almost continuously at Covent Garden, where, after several years in the chorus  she sang solo roles to 1982, in a total of 780 performances. She was especially noted for her interpretations of Berlioz and Wagner.

She trained with Audrey Langford in London, and was invited by Karl Rankl to join the chorus at Covent Garden for two seasons 1948 to 1950. There followed a season touring Britain with Opera for All. After the birth of two children she rejoined the Covent Garden company on tour, singing Cherubino.  Her debut in a solo role at the Royal Opera House came in 1954, as the Page in Salome followed by the Shepherd Boy in Tannhäuser, much helped by her slight stature, 5' 1''.

She was soon taking on a range of more important parts at the Royal Opera House.  During her career she sang a wide repertoire of major roles there, including Mozart (Cherubino, Dorabella);  Rossini (Rosina); Bellini (Adalgisa);  Berlioz (Cassandra, Dido); Wagner (Shepherd Boy, Venus, Brangäne, Fricka, Waltraute);   Verdi (Maddalena, Preziosilla, Eboli, Amneris, Emilia, Meg Page); Musorgsky (Marina); Bizet (Mercédès, Carmen); Mascagni (Santuzza); Puccini (Suzuki); Strauss (Page, Herodias, Octavian, Adelaide Arabella);  Massenet (Charlotte)  and Britten (Mrs Sedley, Hermia). She created Andromache King Priam (Tippett 1962) and in 1976 the Emperor in We Come to the River (Henze).   Perhaps most notable was her interpretation of Dido in Les Troyens.

She appeared rarely with other British companies, but did sing at Glyndebourne in the 1960s - Clarice La pietra del Paragone, Octavian and Charlotte.  She also gave a gloriously dramatic performance at the 1980 Buxton Festival, singing Gertrude to the Hamlet of Thomas Allen, bringing the then almost forgotten Ambroise Thomas opera to life.

A rare visit to Scotland came when she sang in the Opening Concert of the 1963  Edinburgh Festival, as Marguerite in La Damnation de Faust, conducted by Solti. One appearance at the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall was as both Cassandra and Dido in a concert presentation of Les Troyens.

Her international career included visits to the Paris Opéra (Dido, Kundry).  She worked with Karajan, singing Fricka in his staging of the Ring, which was seen at Salzburg, La Scala and the New York Met.  She also worked at Geneva (Adalgisa) and San Francisco (Eboli).  At Tanglewood she sang Olga Eugene Onegin with Ozawa and the Boston Symphony.

She can be heard on a number of recordings in addition to the Karajan Ring. Most notable are her performances of Berlioz under Colin Davis - Dido, Marguerite and Béatrice. She also recorded the Purcell Dido with Davis. She sings Hermia in Britten's own recording of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

She can be heard as the Page in the Nilsson/Solti recording of Salome (1962) and as Rossweisse in a 1961 recording of Die Walküre made with the LSO under Leinsdorf.  She appears as Agnese with Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti in Beatrice di Tenda (Bellini).  On Ansermet;s recording of Pelléas et Mélisande she sings Geneviève. She also recorded the Verdi Requiem under Bernstein with Arroyo, Domingo and Raimondi.

There is an impressive performance on DVD of Norma filmed live at the rather windy open air Orange Festival in the south of France.  The title role is taken by Montserrat Caballé with on Vickers as Pollione.

Roles in Scotland

Berta Bartolo's housekeeper
Barbiere di Siviglia 1961
Damnation de Faust 1963

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