Christa Ludwig (born 16 March 1928) is a retired German dramatic mezzo-soprano, distinguished for her performances of opera, Lieder, oratorio, and other major religious works like masses and passions, and solos contained in symphonic literature. Her career spanned from the late 1940s until the early 1990s. She is widely recognised as one of the most significant and distinguished singers of the 20th century, "with a voice of exquisite richness and, when needed breathtaking amplitude."
Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.
A mezzo-soprano or mezzo (, ; Italian: [ˈmɛddzo soˈpraːno] meaning "half soprano") is a type of classical female singing voice whose vocal range lies between the soprano and the contralto voice types. The mezzo-soprano's vocal range usually extends from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above (i.e. A3–A5 in scientific pitch notation, where middle C = C4; 220–880 Hz). In the lower and upper extremes, some mezzo-sopranos may extend down to the F below middle C (F3, 175 Hz) and as high as "high C" (C6, 1047 Hz). The mezzo-soprano voice type is generally divided into the coloratura, lyric, and dramatic mezzo-soprano.
Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.
Ludwig was born in Berlin to a musical family; her father, Anton Ludwig, was a tenor and an operatic administrator, her mother, the mezzo-soprano Eugenie Besalla-Ludwig who sang at the Aachen Opera during Herbert von Karajan's period as conductor. Ludwig's first voice teacher was her mother.
Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,723,914 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, which is, with 6,004,857 (2015) inhabitants and an area of 30,370 square km, Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.
Herbert von Karajan was an Austrian conductor. He was principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic for 35 years. Generally regarded as one of the greatest conductors of the 20th century, he was a dominant figure in European classical music from the mid-1950s until his death. Part of the reason for this was the large number of recordings he made and their prominence during his lifetime. By one estimate he was the top-selling classical music recording artist of all time, having sold an estimated 200 million records.
Ludwig made her debut in 1946 at the age of 18 as Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus at Frankfurt, where she sang until 1952. She was a member of the Darmstadt Opera from 1952 to 1954, then sang the 1954–1955 season at the Staatsoper Hannover. She joined the Vienna State Opera in 1955, where she became one of its principal artists and was appointed Kammersängerin in 1962 and performed with the company for more than thirty years. In 1954, Ludwig made her debut at the Salzburg Festival as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro , and appeared there regularly until 1981. Ludwig made her Bayreuth Festival debut as Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde in 1966. In 1960, she performed as Adalgisa alongside Maria Callas as Norma, in Bellini's opera by the same title, for an EMI recording.
Die Fledermaus is an operetta composed by Johann Strauss II to a German libretto by Karl Haffner and Richard Genée.
Frankfurt is a metropolis and the largest city of the German federal state of Hesse, and its 746,878 (2017) inhabitants make it the fifth-largest city of Germany after Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Cologne. On the River Main, it forms a continuous conurbation with the neighbouring city of Offenbach am Main, and its urban area has a population of 2.3 million. The city is at the centre of the larger Rhine-Main Metropolitan Region, which has a population of 5.5 million and is Germany's second-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr Region. Since the enlargement of the European Union in 2013, the geographic centre of the EU is about 40 km (25 mi) to the east of Frankfurt's central business district. Like France and Franconia, the city is named after the Franks. Frankfurt is the largest city in the Rhine Franconian dialect area.
Staatsoper Hannover is a German opera house and opera company in Hanover. Its season runs from September to June.
Ludwig made her American debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Dorabella in Così fan tutte in 1959. That same year, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro and subsequently sang 121 performances in 15 different roles with the company until 1993. At the Metropolitan Opera, where she quickly became one of the audience's favourites, her repertoire included The Dyer's Wife in the Met's first performances of Die Frau ohne Schatten , the title role and later the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier , Klytemnestra in Elektra , Ortrud in Lohengrin , Brangäne in Tristan und Isolde , Fricka in both Das Rheingold and Die Walküre , Waltraute in Götterdämmerung , Kundry in Parsifal , the title role in Fidelio , Didon in Les Troyens , Charlotte in Werther , and Amneris in Aida . She first appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1969 as Amneris in Aida .
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. It was founded in Chicago in 1954, under the name 'Lyric Theatre of Chicago' by Carol Fox, Nicolà Rescigno and Lawrence Kelly, with a season that included Maria Callas's American debut in Norma. The company was re-organized by Fox in 1956 under its present name and, after her 1981 departure, it has continued to be of one of the major opera companies in the United States. The Lyric is housed in the Civic Opera Building, which the company now owns.
Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti, K. 588, is an Italian-language opera buffa in two acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first performed on 26 January 1790 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, Austria. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte who also wrote Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni.
As Ludwig's voice matured, she expanded her repertoire from lyric and spinto mezzo-roles to dramatic roles. Her vast repertory eventually grew to encompass Princess Eboli in Don Carlo which she sang at La Scala in Milan, in Salzburg and in Vienna, the title-role in Carmen, Ulrica ( Un ballo in maschera ), Monteverdi's Octavia ( L'incoronazione di Poppea ), Dido ( Les Troyens ), Kundry ( Parsifal ), Klytemnestra ( Elektra ) and contemporary roles by von Einem and Orff. She also ventured briefly into the spinto and dramatic soprano repertory with performances of Verdi's Lady Macbeth ( Macbeth ), Strauss's Dyer's Wife ( Die Frau ohne Schatten ), the Marschallin ( Der Rosenkavalier ) and Beethoven's Leonore ( Fidelio ) .
Spinto is a vocal term used to characterize a soprano or tenor voice of a weight between lyric and dramatic that is capable of handling large musical climaxes in opera at moderate intervals.
La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.
Carmen is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences.
In addition to her opera performances, Ludwig regularly gave recitals of Lieder (together with the German pianist Sebastian Peschko and on occasion, Leonard Bernstein) and as a soloist with orchestras. Her performances of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler and Strauss are much admired. She also sang Bach and performed and recorded most of his major vocal works.
The lied is a term in the German vernacular to describe setting poetry to classical music to create a piece of polyphonic music. The term is used for songs from the late fourteenth or early fifteenth centuries or even to refer to Minnesang from as early as the 12th and 13th centuries. It later came especially to refer to settings of Romantic poetry during the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and into the early twentieth century. Examples include settings by Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf or Richard Strauss. Among English speakers, however, "lied" is often used interchangeably with "art song" to encompass works that the tradition has inspired in other languages. The poems that have been made into lieder often center on pastoral themes or themes of romantic love.
Sebastian Peschko was a German classical pianist specialised in the art form of lieder and as such was partner to some of the foremost lyrical singers of the 20th century.
Leonard Bernstein was an American composer, conductor, author, music lecturer, and pianist. He was among the first conductors born and educated in the US to receive worldwide acclaim. According to music critic Donal Henahan, he was "one of the most prodigiously talented and successful musicians in American history."
From 1957 to 1970, Ludwig was married to the bass-baritone Walter Berry; the couple performed together frequently, notably in Die Frau ohne Schatten . In 1972, she married the French theater actor Paul-Emile Deiber.
In 1993–1994, Ludwig gave a series of farewell recitals in many cities and made her farewell appearance at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, as Fricka in Die Walküre .
Ludwig's final live operatic performance was Klytemnestra in Elektra for the Vienna State Opera in 1994.
The same year, Ludwig published a memoir with Peter Csobádi.Two English translations of the book are available.
Ludwig has been teaching Master Classes since her retirement.
In times where personalities are thinly sown, we have first class, yes excellent, musical practitioners, who lack intuition, imagination, and a feeling for composers, who, even though they lived in the past, can speak to us about today. Courage is needed to reveal one's own feelings in interpretation and not tell the audience with raised forefinger: "The composer wanted it like this, and no other way." But at the same time we singers must never forget that we are only the servants of the great minds who created all the wonderful pieces of music we enjoy today. - In My Own Voice (p.119) translated by Regina Domeraski
Leopoldine "Leonie" Rysanek was an Austrian dramatic soprano.
Dame Gwyneth Jones, is a Welsh operatic dramatic soprano.
Srebrenka "Sena" Jurinac was a Bosnia-born Croatian-Austrian operatic soprano.
Viorica Ursuleac was a Romanian operatic soprano. Viorica Ursuleac was born the daughter of a Greek Orthodox archdeacon, in Chernivtsi, which is now in Ukraine. Following training in Vienna, she made her operatic debut in Zagreb (Agram), as Charlotte in Massenet's Werther, in 1922. The soprano then appeared at the Vienna Volksoper (1924–26), Frankfurt Opera (1926–30), Vienna State Opera (1930–35), Berlin State Opera (1935–37), and Bavarian State Opera (1937–44). She married the Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss in Frankfurt during her time there.
Helga Dernesch is an Austrian soprano and mezzo-soprano. Her career has taken her through four successive phases: from mezzo-soprano to lyric soprano to dramatic soprano, and after about 1980 back to mezzo again. "Her voice had great richness and power, and her strikingly handsome stage appearance and intense acting made her a compelling performer."
Doris Soffel is a German mezzo-soprano.
Martha Mödl was a German soprano, and later a mezzo-soprano. She specialized in large dramatic roles such as Isolde, Brünnhilde, and particularly Kundry, and is considered, along with Astrid Varnay and Birgit Nilsson, one of the three major postwar Wagner sopranos. She was among the preeminent Wagner sopranos—and most compelling singing actresses—of the twentieth century. She was celebrated for her highly individualized interpretations, exceptional acting ability, intense stage presence, and "rich, sexy voice."
Josephine Veasey is a British mezzo-soprano, particularly associated with Wagner and Berlioz roles.
Éva Marton is a Hungarian dramatic soprano, particularly known for her operatic portrayals of Puccini's Turandot and Tosca, and Wagnerian roles.
Elisabeth Höngen was a German operatic mezzo-soprano and singing-actress. She was particularly associated with Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss roles, and with Verdi's Lady Macbeth. From 1947 onward she was one of the Vienna State Opera's most prominent artists for nearly 30 years.
Georgine von Milinkovič was a Croatian operatic mezzo-soprano of Czech birth, particularly associated with Wagner and Strauss roles.
Jean Madeira, née Jean Browning was an American mezzo-soprano, particularly known for her work in late-romantic German repertoire such as the operas of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.
Karin Branzell was a Swedish operatic contralto, who had a prominent career at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, and in Europe. Her very wide range enabled her to sing both contralto roles and the occasional soprano role. She was particularly noted for her singing of the music of Richard Wagner, in roles such as Ortrud (Lohengrin), Venus (Tannhäuser), Erda, Brangäne, and Brunnhilde. She was considered on a par with Margarete Klose and Kerstin Thorborg as a Wagnerian contralto. Amneris (Aida), Dalila, Herodias (Salome), and Clytemnestra (Elektra) were among her other renowned roles.
Margaret Harshaw was an American opera singer and voice teacher who sang for 22 consecutive seasons at the Metropolitan Opera from November 1942 to March 1964. She began her career as a mezzo-soprano in the early 1930s but then began performing roles from the soprano repertoire in 1950. She sang a total of 39 roles in 25 works at the Met and was heard in 40 of the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts. She was also active as a guest artist with major opera houses in Europe and North and South America.
Edyth Walker was an American opera singer who had an active international career from the 1890s through the 1910s. She began her career performing roles from the mezzo-soprano repertory, but later successfully added several soprano parts to her repertoire as well. While she did perform in Italian and French language operas, she had a clear affinity for works in the German language. She particularly excelled in the operas of Richard Wagner. After retiring from the stage, she was active as a voice teacher in both France and the United States. Her voice is preserved on several gramophone recordings, made mainly for His Master's Voice, between 1902-08.
Ursula Schröder-Feinen was a German operatic soprano who performed at the Metropolitan Opera and the Bayreuth Festival.
Ingrid Margareta Tobiasson is a Swedish mezzo-soprano opera singer. Her principal roles in an extremely versatile career include the title role in Bizet's Carmen and Elisabetta in Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.
Elisabeth Schärtel was a German operatic mezzo-soprano and contralto. A member of the Cologne Opera from 1959 to 1967, she performed leading parts at major European opera houses and regularly at the Bayreuth Festival.
Lioba Braun is a German opera singer and academic teacher at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln and the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. Based at the Nationaltheater Mannheim, she has appeared mostly in mezzo-soprano parts at major opera houses and festivals. She became internationally known appearing as Brangäne at the Bayreuth Festival in 1994, and performed the soprano part of Isolde on stage first in 2012.
Lucie Weidt was a German-born Austrian soprano noted for her prowess in the operas of Richard Wagner.
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