Valerie Masterson - Early Career and D'Oyly Carte

Early Career and D'Oyly Carte

Masterson was born in Birkenhead, Cheshire, England, and studied at the Matthay School of Music in Liverpool and the Royal College of Music. She received good reviews for her student performances. The Times commented on her "welcome freshness", though on another occasion it found fault with her attempt at a Scottish accent in a Robert Burns evening at the Wigmore Hall, calling it "more of Kensington than Kilmarnock". Nevertheless, the paper judged her "good to listen to" and "intelligent".

She studied for a year in Milan with the soprano Adelaide Saraceni, but her most important teacher was the London-based tenor Eduardo Asquez. She made her debut as Frasquita in Bizet's Carmen in Salzburg with the Landestheatre Opera Company, where she spent a season in 1963 singing roles in Italian, French and German operas. The following year, she returned to England, performing in concerts, including two Promenade Concerts with Sir Malcolm Sargent. She later recalled, "I remember Sir Malcolm Sargent plucking me out of the Royal College of Music to do some Proms as a student – can you imagine that happening nowadays? – and saying to me 'Your quiet singing will make your fortune'". The music critics commended "a team of soloists led by a newcomer, Miss Valerie Masterson, with particularly pure and radiant soprano tone" in the Serenade to Music.

Masterson joined the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company as a principal soprano in 1964. After a performance as Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance, The Guardian commented, "It is Valerie Masterson's Mabel that makes one revise ideas on D'Oyly Carte standards. It is a long time since the company had so strong a soprano lead." Other critics agreed: The Times criticised D'Oyly Carte vocal standards in 1968 but called Masterson and Kenneth Sandford "shining exceptions." She remained with D'Oyly Carte for five years, where her major roles were Mabel; Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore; Phyllis in Iolanthe; Lady Psyche, and subsequently the title role, in Princess Ida; Yum-Yum in The Mikado; Elsie Maynard in The Yeomen of the Guard; and Casilda in The Gondoliers. She appeared in the company's film version of The Mikado as Yum-Yum in 1967. She left the company in 1969 but often returned for guest appearances.

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