The sound is dark, quiet and full of vision. With “Rosa das Rosas” sung by Teresa Berganza, the recording is nearly 50 years old, and it’s a medieval Marian song still influential 800 years later. The philosopher King Alonso VII, the wise, wrote it down in a magnificent manuscript. Berganza’s voice, as vocal as a little, is sufficient for every listener, no accompaniment needed, and the darker tones sparkle and comfort: earthy paired with visions. Teresa Berganza was born in Madrid in 1935, studied there and made her debut there, and her career immediately followed – why? For the warm, soft, and graceful Mezzo-Soprano Berganza reflects an infinite humanity, an unsentimental sympathy for all those women she brought to the stage and always been wholly believable as women of the late twentieth century: Carmen, liberated in matters of love, the similarly rebellious girls of Gioachino Rossini, indulged In their misery and their most miserable love Melisande.
Like Maria Callas, who was twelve years older than her, Berganza embodied a new image of the woman on stage, which had already had an astonishing influence in post-war Europe, but especially in Spain under the murderous dictator Franco. At times, it is as if the unassuming, dreamy Berganza women fighting for self-determination were direct ancestors of all the more resolute women in director Pedro Almodovar, who dealt the fatal blow, at least in aesthetic terms, to fascist Catholic Spain.
For a long time, the sopranos sang female characters by Rossini and Carmen by Georges Bizet for mezzo-sopranos. It was more smashing, more direct, and more effective. These roles were gradually handed over to mezzo-sopranos again. Berganza’s great predecessor was Conchita Supervia, who died a year after Berganza was born. Supervía is a powerhouse with Rossini and as Carmen, anyone who has heard her recordings only once is marked for life, who is believed to have experienced perfection on Earth. But Berganza is very different from Supervía and Callas. She never celebrated her roles as Callas, and she never demonized them like Supervía. She humanizes the music, she sings in a completely natural and unoperated way.
Berganza prioritized the content, not her sheer skill
Berganza gives the impression that anyone can sing “L’amour est un oiseaux rebelle,” the song about a rebellious lovebird sounding as harmless and light as the folk song. This is of course a trick that only great female artists can master. That’s why no one is surprised by Berganza’s formidable technical ability, she does everything she can to hide it. Because it is about content, music, comfort, the language of the soul, and resisting the disgusting reality with its wars, famines, and bullying. Berganza manages this effortlessly. The listener always feels safe with her.
In addition, Teresa Berganza has been European from an early age. Your Mozart looks like Salzburg, your Bizet looks like Paris, or your Mussorgsky looks like Petersburg. She was able to do this because she knew Spanish music better than almost anyone else. Not only did Alonso Sabio sing, but also the folk songs compiled by the poet Federico García Lorca and many zarzuelas, those musical comedies that, due to their gentle simplicity, are still popular in the Spanish-speaking world, while always misunderstood abroad.
With her discretion, her anti-operacious tenderness, and her magical straightforwardness, she avoided all clichés almost compulsively associated with Spain. Everything was easy for Teresa Berganza. At the same time, the music she sang speaks not only of a lost paradise, but also of the confidence that we will find this paradise again someday. Even if only singing it. Now the rose rose near Madrid has died at the age of 89.