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Valereie Masterson (Soprano)

Born: June 3, 1937 - Birkenhead, Cheshire

The English soprano, Margaret Valerie Masterson, studied at the Matthay School of Music in Liverpool and the Royal College of Music. She studied for a year in Milan with the soprano Adelaide Saraceni, but her most important teacher was the tenor Eduardo Asquez. Sho won Countess of Munster Scholarship and Gulbenkian Scholarsip.

Valerie Masterson made her debut as Frasquita in Georges Bizet's Carmen in Salzburg with the Landestheatre Opera Company, where she spent a season in 1963, and sang there also in Falstaff, Il Turco in Italia and Der Schauspieldirektor. The following year, after returning to England and giving concerts, including two Promenade Concerts with Sir Malcolm Sargent, she joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as a principal soprano in 1964. She remained with D'Oyly Carte for several years, playing roles such as Mabel (The Pirates of Penzance), Josephine (H.M.S. Pinafore), Phyllis (Iolanthe), Elsie Maynard (The Yeomen of the Guard), and Casilda (The Gondoliers). She appeared in the film version of The Mikado as Yum-Yum in 1967. She left the company in 1969 but often returned for guest appearances.

In 1972 Valerie Masterson went on to become principal soprano with English National Opera, singing a wide range of roles from Mozart to Wagner and Rossini to Puccini, including Manon, Traviata, Mimi, Juliet, Louise, Pamina, Gilda, Countess and Suzanna in Figaro, Constanza in Seraglio, Cleopatra in Julius Caesar. There followed Royal Opera House, Covent Garden debut in 1974 in the Reighngold. Her starring roles there were as Violetta in La Traviata, and as Cleopatra in Giulio Cesare opposite Dame Janet Baker. She also sang there in Fidelio, We Come to the River by Henze, Semele, Faust (Marguerite), Carmelites, Micaela in Carmen, The King Goes Forth to France (Sallinen). She sang the title role of George Frideric Handel’s Semele at Glyndebourne and, over a career lasting more than 30 years, made guest appearances in concerts and opera houses in many major cities of the world, including Paris, Aix, Milan, Munich, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Barcelona, Geneva, South America. She sang Marguerite in Faust and Mozart's Countess at the London Colliseum in 1990; Fiordiligi for Welsh National Opera and Ilia in Idomeneo for the English Bach Festival at Covent Garden. In 1983, Masterson won a Laurence Olivier Award for her performance in Semele (with The Royal Opera).

Valerie Masterson had her greatest successes in the French repertoire, most particularly as Massenet’s Manon and in Charles Gounod’s Faust and Romeo and Juliet, singing the lead soprano roles in these works in London, Paris, and many other cities. She also played a significant part in the reintroduction of G.F. Handel’s operas to the popular repertoire. In particular, her purity of line and easy facility for ornamentation, coupled with excellent diction, helped to bring to life works which as recently as the 1960s were deemed ‘unperformable’. She also won praise for her roles in many musicals and a wide range of operettas.

As a home-grown British soprano with a charming personality and attractive appearance, Valerie Masterson became popular with wider audiences through frequent contributions to the popular radio series Friday Night is Music Night and the TV programme The Good Old Days. There were also television broadcasts of several Gilbert and Sullivan comic operas and live relays from English National Opera.

As Vice-President of British Youth Opera, Valerie Masterson continues to work with young singers. In 1988, Masterson was made a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours. She was also made a Fellow of the Royal College of Music in 1992. She also continues to give master-classes and to lecture about singing and her career. She often speaks at the annual International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England. She is married to former D'Oyly Carte principal flautist Andrew March.

Among her recordings are a number of Gilbert & Sullivan operas with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado, and a series of Gilbert and Sullivan videos with the company Gilbert and Sullivan for All. On BBC television, Masterson appeared as Yum-Yum in 1973 and Elsie in 1975. In 1983, she recorded an album of G&S solos and duets with Robert Tear. She sang Josephine, Mabel, Ida, Yum-Yum, and Elsie in the 1989 BBC2 series of the complete Gilbert and Sullivan operas. In 1997 she recorded excerpts from Ivanhoe, The Chieftain, The Beauty Stone, and The Emerald Isle with the National Symphony Orchestra for the CD "Sullivan & Co. - The Operas That Got Away." Her voice is heard in the Gilbert and Sullivan songs in the film The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. Masterson is heard on a recording in English of La Traviata conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras, who also conducts G.F. Handel's Julius Caesar in which Masterson plays Cleopatra opposite Janet Baker's Caesar. The French repertoire is represented by a recital disc: "Valerie Masterson - en Français Airs d’Opéra". In July 1975, Masterson sang Matilde in a complete recording of Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra by Rossini, alongside Montserrat Caballé and José Carreras. She is also featured in live recordings of Faust (in Philadelphia) and Mireille. She also recorded G.F. Handel's Messiah and appeared as Romilda in the DVD reording of Nicholas Hytner's ENO production of G.F. Handel's Xerxes in 1995, also conducted by Charles Mackerras. Recordings of lighter roles include The King and I, Kismet, Bitter Sweet, and Song of Norway.

Source: Wikipedia Website [based on Leslie Ayre: The Gilbert & Sullivan Companion, London: W.H. Allen & Co Ltd. Introduction by Martyn Green (1972); Valerie Masterson at Who Was Who in the D'Oyly; Carte'Pinafore Website]; International Who's Who in Music & Musicians' Directory (13th Edition, 1992/93)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (December 2008)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Raymond Leppard


G.F. Handel: Opera Alcina, HWV 34 [Morgana]

Links to other Sites

The D'oyly Carte Opera Company: Valerie Masterson
Valerie Masterson (Wikipedia)

Valerie Masterson (Pinafore)

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