25 years since Lucia Popp

The most life-enhancing soprano of my time died in Munich of brain cancer on November 6,1993.

She was 54 years old and we have never seen her like again.

A Slovak, she had three high-calibre musician husbands and several lovers, but this is not the moment for biography.

Just marvel at the art.

And the fun.

Greatest of all:


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  • She was extraordinary. And that was a year or so when two other great singers of similar age – Arlene Auger and Tatyana Troyanos – died of similar illness.

    • While Lucia Popp had a more wide-ranging career, Arlene Auger and Tatyana Troyanos certainly deserve to be mentioned in the same company. Wow…the memories of these great artists…

      • Lucia Popp, Arlene Auger and Tatiana Troyanos – three lovely singers who are so deeply missed. 1993 was indeed a year of tears…

  • A well-deserved tribute to a singer of the first rank, revered a quarter of a century after her passing. Thank you for remembering Lucia Popp for those of us who enjoyed her artistry and for others who can now discover this wonderful artist through her many recordings.

    I apologize to point this out, but I do believe Miss Popp was a soprano, not a mezzo-soprano. This is arts journalism, not political journalism. We expect a higher standard of accuracy.

        • Not one of the seven deadly sins, but a telling lack of character. Many people these days think expressing gratitude is somehow a sign of weakness.

    • According to Wikipedia, Ms. Popp initially trained as a mezzo-soprano, so Mr. Lebrecht wasn’t totally incorrect afterall. Thanks for pointing out the error though!

    • Second the emotion of the first paragraph.

      I can’t see the links — hope her Solti/Four Last Songs is included, otherwise easy to find on YT. Similarly her Rusalka/Song to the Moon.

  • I still remember her under Klemperer in February 1971 at a concert performance in Cosi fan tutte with among others Margaret Price. I don‘t recall her, Lucia ,that is, as a mezzo-
    soprano, but as a pure soprano. She even sang the Queen of the night.

    • Yes! She was the best Queen of the Night ever recorded in Klemperer’s magnificent set. My first and still favourite Zauberflöte.

  • I remember her in London 1979 doing a Haydn Mass with Bernstein. Wonderful. Lenny was clearly transfixed with every note.

  • One of the most generous and gracious persons I ever had the pleasure to know. And that voice was a gift to us all, one that can never be replaced.

  • I was lucky enough to know Lucia for a short while in Munich and briefly in Chicago while I sang in both places. She was kind, funny and one of the most beautiful women I ever met. As for her singing…..well, she was simply superb. A quality of tone that never failed to move and thrill in equal measure. I agree with Pedro….the best Queen of Night ever! And so much more. She is sorely missed for her musical taste and style that was never excessive and for that beautiful voice.

    • It’s a cruel way to die and she was much too young. As were those other singers. I have some fine recordings from Lucia Popp; my favourite is ‘Vier Letzte Lieder’ with Tennstedt.
      And we recently lost the wonderful Dmitri H of the same vile disease and at the same age as Lucia Popp.

    • And how lovely was (is) Isobel!
      Thinking of the Sydney Carmelites in the mid-80s.
      Popp’s Liederabende at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin are treasured memories.

  • Carlos Kleiber was one of Popp’s lovers. In fact, she left one of her husbands for Carlos but he remained with Stanka, his wife. That poor wife suffered greatly because of her philandering husband but, irony of ironies, when she died 7 months ahead of Carlos he just couldn’t cope at all. As my daughter-in-law said to me recently when we discussed this, “perhaps their bedroom had become a battleground”.

  • After a quick research, I just realized that I saw her very last performance at the Vienna Staatsoper: on March 13, 1993 she sang the Marschallin in Strauss’ Rosenkavalier.
    I had just moved to Vienna 3 days before and I remember how excited I was to finally see her after all these years of listening to her on records.
    Then she gave a lieder recital (Dvorak, Mahler, Wolf and Strauss) at the Konzerthaus in September 1993 and since money was scarce, I thought that as she was relatively young, I’d have plenty of other chances to see her in recital…
    Of course, no one had any idea that less than 6 weeks later, she’d be gone.

    I still haven’t forgiven myself for missing that concert…

  • For those among you who took the pains to study a few foreign languages, there is a fine Popp biography in German: “Lucia” by Ursula Tamussino (Barylli Verlag). It includes lots of personal photographs and a CD. The long profile I wrote on Opera Nostalgia is based upon the book.

  • I first encountered Lucia Popp in a movie version of The Bartered Bride, when she was little more than a teenager. I was enchanted, and followed her developing career with great interest. I heard her live only once, at a recital for which I obtained a last-minute cancellation ticket. She had obviously been scheduled to meet with the (distinguished?) ticket-holder after the concert but nobody told her about the cancellation. I was thus surprised and overjoyed when she left the stage after the last song and approached the seat I was vacating to greet the ticket-holder. “My schedule says I must talk with XYZ here for 10 minutes so now you will have to put up with me” she said after the circumstances were sorted out, and proceeded to graciously charm and entertain me for 10 minutes; an experience I will forever treasure.

    When I acquired her Four Last Songs recording with Tennstedt the other 10 or so versions in my collection retired to eBay – nobody did it better. But an even more treasured recording is her rendition of the title role in the Decca Cunning Little Vixen (Mackerras conducting).

    Some years ago I heard a young and then unknown soprano called Miah Persson as Sophie in Rosenkavalier (in New Zealand of all places) and I was instantly reminded of the young Lucia Popp. And as the former’s career has blossomed I think I was right in believing her to be the closest thing as a successor to Lucia Popp, if this is at all possible.

  • A truly awful disease, very often attacking people at the peak of their abilities and careers. And very little advance in treatment, from Popp to Hvorostovsky.

  • Just “thanks.” … O.k., maybe not. I will listen today to her Mahler 4, Carmina Burana bits, and the Pamina parts of Haitink’s Magic Flute. If my wife will put up with it I will add some of Strauss’ Daphne.

  • She started off as a sobrette soprano. I came on the seen late I missed her performance in South Africa which I will regret for the rest of my days!

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