Lament for leading Austrian contralto, 95

Lament for leading Austrian contralto, 95


norman lebrecht

March 31, 2020

Hertha Töpper died this week in Munich, aged 95.

She sang in the 1951 Bayreuth Ring, the first since the War, and went on to command leading roles in Munich, Salzburg and the Met, including Carmen, Frocka and Brangäne.

She was the jewel in Karl Richter’s Bach recordings.



  • Reuben says:

    Frocka? Is that Fricka’s older dress-wearing sister?
    Really, some small attention to detail would be good, lest you want the world to think you take an intentionally slapdash approach to everything you write, which I know is not the case. And surely the artists whose deaths you frequently record can merit a little less haste and more respect at their passing for their life’s work.

  • AndrewB says:

    How sad to learn of the passing of Hertha Topper. Such a wonderful contralto. Her 95 years were well spent and she enriched many lives .

  • MezzoLover says:

    Hertha Töpper is my favorite Octavian, in a gala performance with Claire Watson, Kurt Böhme, Erika Köth, Fritz Wunderlich, Gerhard Stolze and Brigitte Fassbaender at the Munich National Theatre on 21 May 1965. The performance was attended by Queen Elisabeth of England and recorded live by Bayerischen Rundfunks.

    She later described the secret to the success of that legendary Strauss ensemble:

    “Our ensemble was probably so well-liked because we were all incredibly keen on singing and acting. In addition, there was – a true stroke of luck – the complementary timbres of our voices as well as an unusual feeing of rapport. None of us wanted to dominate the scene. We all considered ourselves fortunate to be able to sing.”

    A consummate artist. She will be missed.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    What a lovely voice she had! I treasure my many recordings of her, in all sorts of repertoire.
    She certainly was a jewel in the Bach recordings of Richter. To hear Hertha Topper and Maria Stader in the b minor Mass, or Topper and Irmgard Seefried in the St. Matthew Passion, is to take a trip to musical heaven.
    Addio, Fraulein Topper.

    • MezzoLover says:

      Completely agreed. I should add that both she and Stader are equally superb in their recording of the Magnificat, also under Richter. Richter re-recorded the St. Matthew Passion in 1978, this time with Janet Baker, but Töpper holds her ground in comparison, especially in Erbarme Dich.

  • IP says:

    I met her as a little old lady and I couldn’t get over how tiny she was. I had expected someone large, to match the voice. RIP