Born: May 21, 1949; Worksop, Nottinghamshire, England
Hailed early by British critics as a major artist, soprano Rosalind Plowright has had a career of both significant successes and disappointing failures. Gifted with a voice of great promise, she too often seems to have been compromised by an unreliable technique. Her large, brightly colored top register and substantial middle range have, at their best, been components of an instrument of undeniable excitement. At other times, the voice has tendedRead more toward squalling and uncertainties of pitch, detracting from basically good vocal and dramatic instincts. For all her unevenness, she has recorded several leading roles that represent her best singing and has won the support of some major conductors. Her slender beauty has also lent her stage work a high level of credibility.
After studies in Manchester, and later at the London Opera Centre, Plowright made her debut in 1975 singing the short but important role of the Page in a production of Salome at the English National Opera; she subsequently appeared with the company as Tosca, Elisabeth de Valois, Miss Jessel, Helene in Verdi's Les vepres Siciliennes, and Elizabeth the First in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda. The latter opera, sung with Janet Baker and subsequently recorded, put her name and voice before a wider audience and brought positive reviews. In 1976 and 1977, she sang Donna Elvira and the Countess with the Glyndebourne Touring Opera, pursuing the Don Giovanni of the young Thomas Allen. In 1979, she won appreciative reviews for her Fennimore in Delius' Fennimore and Gerda at London's Camden Festival. In 1980, she sang Manon Lescaut at Torre del Lago, as well as appearing as Aida in Frankfurt and as Ariadne in Berne.
Plowright's Covent Garden debut came in 1980 when she was engaged for Ortlinde. Amidst later successes in larger roles -- such as Donna Anna, Desdemona, Maddalena in Andrea Chénier, and Leonora in Il trovatore -- came a Senta which was regarded as a failure. Her top register in the role of Wagner's visionary heroine proved unreliable and she was further hindered by an unpopular stage production. Plowright's American debut took place in San Diego when she sang Medora in the United States premiere of Verdi's Il corsaro. She returned to perform the title roles in Chabrier's Wagner-influenced opera Gwendoline and Verdi's Violetta. Her New York debut came in a 1983 concert performance of Strauss' Die Liebe der Danae when she essayed the title role. La Scala also heard her for the first in 1983 when she sang Suor Angelica; in 1987, she undertook Alcestis in Milan. She sang Cherubini's Medea, a role with which she was closely associated, at Buxton in 1984 and later at Covent Garden. Lausanne heard her Medea in an Italian-language production. Following prolonged vocal difficulties, Plowright sang a credible Santuzza at the Berlin Staatsoper in 1996, and the following year performed Giorgetta in Puccini's Il tabarro at the English National Opera. Other roles in Plowright's repertory include Madama Butterfly, Tatyana, Gioconda, Lady Macbeth (for which her voice in its prime was ideally suited), and Norma (which proved substantially more problematic). Among Plowright's recordings, her heroine in Spontini's La vestale, her Trovatore Leonora (with Giulini), her English-language Desdemona, and her solos in Mendelssohn's Elijah are the best examples. Read less