Sena Jurinac: the Mahler connection

Sena Jurinac: the Mahler connection


norman lebrecht

November 24, 2011

Several German-language obituries point out that the great soprano Sena Jurinac, who has died aged 90, spent a formative summer in Salzburg in 1943 with the elderly Anna von Mildenburg, who was Gustav Mahler’s protégée and love object, as well as his mighty Isolde at the Vienna Opera.

Sena, who described herself as a ‘k-und-k mixture’, was the daughter of a Viennese mother and Croatian father who lived in the small Bosnian town of Travnik. She was 22 and had sung Mimi in La Boheme at the Zagreb Opera when she won a scholarship place on Mildenburg’s summer course at the Salzburg Mozarteum. That led, in turn, to her being signed by Karl Böhm for the Vienna Opera and, while she never got to sing there before Goebbels shut it down, she resumed in Vienna in 1946 and went on to sing 46 roles in 1200 performances.

She never sung much Mahler – I think there is only one recording – but she became a vital link in his Vienna tradition. Here is a picture of the young Sena with Mildenburg, published in Franz Willnauer’s book of Mahler-Mildenburg letters.

and here’s another from the resourceful Mahler researcher, Michael Bosworth