96-year-old operatic soprano with crystal clear voice sings a miraculous ‘Panis Angelicus’

22 June 2021, 13:06 | Updated: 22 June 2021, 16:52

96-year-old soprano with crystal clear voice sings a miraculous ‘Panis Angelicus’
96-year-old soprano with crystal clear voice sings a miraculous ‘Panis Angelicus’. Picture: Wen Arto/Facebook

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Unearthed footage proves that age barely dimmed the magnificent light in Italian operatic soprano, Magda Olivero.

At age 96, Italian verismo soprano Magda Olivero still had one of opera’s most remarkable voices.

Footage of Olivero singing Franck’s ‘Panis Angelicus’ in an Italian Catholic church has gone viral on Facebook, with everyone remarking on her crystal-clear sound and deeply beautiful tone. Every year on Ferragosto, Italy’s public holiday on 15 August, Olivero would perform in the Church of Sulden (Parrocchia di Solda).

Often described as the “last verismo soprano”, Olivero is remembered as one of the great singers of the 20th century.

Her style, ‘verismo’, was highly stylised and dramatic, her signature roles fittingly including title parts in Puccini’s Tosca and Luigi Cherubini’s Medea.

In 1951, a critic observed: “Hers is an astonishing talent [with] an intensity, both musical and dramatic, which was quite extraordinary.”

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Panis Angelicus - Grandissima Magda Olivero at age 96.

Posted by Wen Arto on Friday, May 1, 2020

Olivero’s immaculate technique allowed her to enjoy one of the longest careers in the history of opera.

She gave her last public performance aged 99 – nearly half a decade after the usual retirement age for singers.

Even in her later years on the opera stage, audiences would greet Olivero’s performances with half-an-hour standing ovations and screams of pure delight.

“She reigns supreme, singing with an abandon and fervour that will leave you exhausted,” American Record Guide wrote in 1997 in a review of a two-disc set of arias.

Magda Olivero made her debut in the 1930s and was still performing well into the 21st century. She died on 8 September 2014 aged 104, after suffering a stroke the month before.