Tributes pour in for Christa Ludwig

Tributes pour in for Christa Ludwig

RIP

norman lebrecht

April 25, 2021

From La Scala, Milan:

With the passing of Christa Ludwig, the music world loses the protagonist of a bright and unrepeatable era. A direct heir to a culture interpreted with infallible vocal means and musical intelligence, Ludwig was a reference artist in a repertoire ranging from Mozart to Wagner and Strauss to Green and Lied.

Karajan brought her to La Scala in April 1958 as Waltraute in Die Walküre along with Suthaus, Rysanek and Nilsson. Georg Szell directed her in the Missa Solemnis a few months later. She was Barbarina in the Marriange of Figaro conducted by Karajan with Sena Jurinac and Graziella Sciutti, and Adalgisa in a recording Norma with Maria Callas and Franco Corelli under Tullio Serafin.

In 1961 she was for one evening Princess Eboli in Don Carlo directed by Gabriele Santini next to Leyla Gencer. In the same year she was a legendary Oktavian in a historic Der Rosenkavalier conducted by Karl Böhm with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

Claudio Abbado conducted her in 1975 in a concert for students in Conservatory in Des Knaben Wunderhorn with Siegmund Nimsgern. Her last Scala appearance was in 1992 and in the Philharmonic Season with the Rückert-Lieder conducted by Riccardo Muti.

From Vienna:
The Vienna State Opera mourns Christa Luwdig who died on Saturday, aged 93.

She made her company debut in the Redoutensaal on April 14, 1955 as Cherubino in Marriage of Figaro, and in the rebuilt house on the Ring on December 26, 1955 as Octavian in Rosenkavalier.

Over almost 40 years she sang 769 State Opera performances in 42 roles. Her most sung role was Dorabella in Così fan tutte. She was as stylish as Octavian and Marschallin as she was as Kundry in Parsifal or Claire Zachanassian written for her in The Visit of the Old Lady.

Ludwig’s artistic life was characterized by collaboration with all the great conductors of her time. Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm and Leonard Bernstein were the three she herself called the most influential. ‘With Christa Ludwig it went straight from the heart, from the brain to the vocal cords, so that you couldn’t tell whether she was singing, feeling or talking. It was all a single microcosm,’ said Otto Schenk.


Norma (1960) with Franco Corelli and Maria Callas
photo Erio Piccagliani © Teatro alla Scala

Comments

  • E says:

    She was a force of life, an
    inspiration for living, an immense musician. Norman, you chose wonderful pieces in tribute to her, for your two posts. All of the German papers have tributes: Die Süddeutsche
    Zeitung has one that is written from the heart.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    Metropolitan Opera 119 performances between 12/10/1959 and 4/3/1993.

  • PaulD says:

    Yes, a sad day. But, seeing that picture, we should feel fortunate that the period of great post-war singers coincided with the development of magnetic tape and the LP. Their artistry will live on.

  • Alan Green says:

    A salute to Christa Ludwig, one of the greatest artists of all and magnificent in everything she touched. I just have one regret: she always was tempted to sing Isolde and ultimately did not. But….why did not anyone at least make it happen on recording! Now that she has left us, she is surely sent on her voyage to the stars with enormous love from all of us…..

    • Novagerio says:

      Alan: Because she was the best Brangäne in the world, and a natural and dramatic mezzo, with enough intelligence not to push the voice where it didn’t belong.

      • Anonymous Bosch says:

        Novagerio: Somewhat ironically, I have a handwritten letter from Christa Ludwig explaining why she withdrew from Brangäne in the Met’s 1971 new production of „Tristan und Isolde“ with Birgit Nilsson and Jess Thomas: „I am very sorry but I will not sing Brangäne at all at the Met because I cancelled this opera (I do not like Brangäne)“.

        Mignon Dunn, Grace Hoffman, and Irene Dalis sang the initial run.

        Ludwig sang Brangäne at Wiener Staatsoper only twice (1956 and 1958), three times with the Met (1960), twice at Bayreuth (1966), and at von Karajan’s 1972 Salzburg Easter Festival – perhaps also at some German houses but I do not have that information.

  • I had the privilege of hearing her twice in person and both times with dear Lenny conducting in Israel and Wolftrap. I will never forget what a great, wonderful woman and artist that was Christa Ludwig.

  • Greg Bottini says:

    One of the greatest singers and musicians of the 20th century has died.
    Christa Ludwig uplifted and ennobled every recording and live performance in which she appeared. She was as beautiful and as convincing in Bach as she was in Wagner as she was in Mahler as she was in Bellini as she was in Puccini.
    I honor her memory. Requiescat in pace, dear Queen Christa.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Uh … I believe the composer “Green” referred to in the La Scala tribute just might be Giuseppe Verdi (thanks to Google Translate).

    I heard Ludwig for the first time 50 years ago, as the Färbarin in January 1971, and as Charlotte in “Werther” the next month. Later would come Didon, Octavian, die Marschallin, Kundry, Fricka, Waltraute, and Klytämnestra, plus numerous recitals and an unforgettable “Winterreise” on a dark winter afternoon.

    Truly one of the greatest singers of my lifetime, and a great and generous teacher and often very humourous speaker.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Uh … I believe the composer “Green” referred to in the La Scala tribute just might be Giuseppe Verdi (thanks to Google Translate).

    I heard Ludwig for the first time 50 years ago, as the Färbarin in January 1971, and as Charlotte in “Werther” the next month. Later would come Didon, Octavian, die Marschallin, Kundry, Fricka, Waltraute, and Klytämnestra, plus numerous recitals and an unforgettable “Winterreise” on a dark winter afternoon.

    Truly one of the greatest singers of my lifetime, and a great and generous teacher and often very humourous speaker.

  • Anonymous Bosch says:

    Uh … I believe the composer “Green” referred to in the La Scala tribute just might be Giuseppe Verdi (thanks to Google Translate).

    I heard Ludwig for the first time 50 years ago, as the Färbarin in January 1971, and as Charlotte in “Werther” the next month. Later would come Didon, Octavian, die Marschallin, Kundry, Fricka, Waltraute, and Klytämnestra, plus numerous recitals and an unforgettable “Winterreise” on a dark winter afternoon.

    Truly one of the greatest singers of my lifetime, and a great and generous teacher and often very humourous speaker, active till her last days.

  • Una says:

    End of a wonderful era really, and a great loss to her students. May she rest in peace…

  • Oresta Cybriwsky says:

    Indeed it saddens me to hear of Ks. Christa Ludwig’s passing into even higher realms than she achieved with her singing. I had the great, great privilege of working with her as pianist in many of her masterclasses. The best for me were the discussions over dinner or planning the program together or talking about “Gott und die Welt”. Recently I called her to co graduate her on her birthday, and as she was telling me how life was for her right now, I quoted “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen…” and she silently finished the poem.
    It is done. May she rest in everlasting song.
    With a deep bow of gratitude..

  • Oresta Cybriwsky says:

    Indeed it saddens me to hear of Ks. Christa Ludwig’s passing into even higher realms than she achieved with her singing. I had the great, great privilege of working with her as pianist in many of her masterclasses. The best for me were the discussions over dinner or planning the program together or talking about “Gott und die Welt”. Recently I called her to congratulate Frau Ludwig on her birthday, and as she was telling me how life was for her right now, I quoted “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen…” and she silently finished the poem.
    It is done. May she rest in everlasting song.
    With a deep bow of gratitude..
    Oresta Cybriwsky

  • SonicSinfonia says:

    A great artist.

    Strange that your website design auto-crops the photo to centre Franco Corelli in the main picture.

  • Gregory Mowery says:

    One of the most versatile, vibrant, and musical of singers. I often think she had only one mezzo of her generation to match her–Dame Janet Baker. Both serious artists and deeply musical. I don’t think of Christa Ludwig as having much of a sense of humor, yet her witch on the Eichorn-led HANSEL UND GRETEL is a so funny and she sings the spots of the music (character tenors need not apply here). She is also very funny singing “I am so easily assimilated” at the 70th birthday tribute to Leonard Bernstein at Tanglewood. She and her then husband, Walter Berry, create and endearing “Das Knaben Wunderhorn” with Bernstein at the piano in a recital on Columbia that is full of charm and much humor. After all these years, my vast Ludwig discography is still being played and enjoyed. RIP.

  • Eusebius says:

    I attended one of her master classes in NY. A great artist and a genuinely nice person.

  • From the NYTimes obit penned by Daniel J. Wakin

    “…With the arrival of American troops, Ms. Ludwig recounted in her memoir, she and her parents were assigned an abandoned apartment with a piano that had been used as a toilet.

    Christa’s mother gave voice lessons. “Studying singing was a wonderful way to forget the wretched way we lived, the ruins, the still-smoldering coal cellars, and the stink of ashes,” Ms. Ludwig wrote.

    The young singer soon found work singing popular tunes at the American officers club, wearing a dress she had made from a Nazi flag. She was paid in cigarettes and stole whatever food she could. Once her father, who had been a member of the Nazi party, was denazified, he was given back his job and organized variety shows around town that featured his daughter.”

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