International mezzo ends singing career at 48

International mezzo ends singing career at 48


norman lebrecht

June 23, 2021

The Austrian mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Kulman is ‘putting a final line under my classical singing career’. It will end in December this year.

Elisabeth has been a passionate campaginer for the rights of singers in concert and opera venues. She gave up singing opera in 2015 after serial discomfort with controlling directors.

She is the founder of What’s Opera Doc, a channel dealing with singer issues in a toxic environment.

Here’s the latest episode.


  • JYF says:

    She’s a prickly character with some problems. It doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything wrong within the opera houses but she needs to be realistic and recognize that she perhaps just wasn’t really cut out for that life.

  • Good Call says:

    Angry, attention-seeking woman; minor, small voice. It’s for the best. Her “retirement” is the major moment of her “career”.

  • PP says:

    Yes, this is not a voice problem: she recorded Fricka for Simon Rattle just two years ago and at least one critic (Andrew Clements) considered her “excellent”; Kirill Petrenko also chose her as Fricka. A decade ago she filmed Gluck’s Orfeo with Muti, beautifully, but that was never released, probably thanks to RMM copyright. Her devotion now to stage-director abuse is to be lauded.

    • Angela H says:

      I know nothing about the politics of this, but can confirm that having seen her twice on London stages her voice was was big enough to sing Mahler with full orchestras – how big a voice do you want? I liked what I heard.

  • Paul Mauffray says:

    I wish she would continue to sing Lieder and concert performances. She gave such a profoundly beautiful performance of this song cycle “Frantumi” by Fredric Kroll with piano accompaniment which is still yet to be performed in the orchestral version by the composer:

  • William says:

    Her career was not going places. Too small a voice in a large theatre and very few operatic roles which she could real do justice to. She knew it and obviously traded that to criticise the very business that she was not able to be successful at in the highest level.

    Frankly, if you cannot hack it just pack your bags quietly and let those who can to get on with what they can do best and much better than you.

    Interesting that in her what’s opera.doc she only has third-rate singers who complain about how they did not make it because of so-and-so. IMO there is nothing worse in life than attributing failure to others rather than having a good look at yourself, getting up and working yourself hard to be better than the rest.if you fail you frío because of you not because of those around you,

    Why does her channel not attract any of the leading singers in the world to be interviewed I wonder…?

    It’s all a bit of joke but of course very relevant to all the movements going on at present.

    • Joseph says:

      You are simply ignorant, about both Elisabeth Kulman’s career and the abuse she is fighting.

      • William says:

        I have worked with Kulman and with many others who have also worked with her. Call that ignorant if you will.

        What I don’t do is moan and groan and get on with it. If there is abuse go ahead and report it to the authorities – don’t wait 15 years to do so or claim it’s the abuse that is having you retire.

        She says she is fighting the abuse. Most of us think she has very few possibilities and therefore “fights the abuse” so as to draw attention to herself.

        Because one thing is for sure – if Kulman had a stellar career with a diary full of engagements together with an influence to call the shots (which top singers do have and she never has had – and I think that is what has frustrated her the most) she would not be retiring nor fighting anything of the sort.

        • Anthony Sayer says:

          The point is that the opera business is sustained by people who do not necessarily have stellar careers but try to get employed as often as possible in the hope of making it a viable professional choice. For every Kaufmann etc there are hundreds, if not thousands of talented individuals quite capable of honouring the terms of their contracts but who are not necessarily known outside a certain circle of interested patrons. These are the people Elisabeth Kulman was standing up for. I can’t think of many people who would have taken on Pereira at the Salzburg Festival while being employed there. May she find contentment in her future life choices.

        • Fredric Kroll says:

          As far as I can see, her calendar WAS full of engagements, both before and after her retirement from opera, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.

        • Just listen says:

          Ha, such faith in ‘the authorities’. It is well-documented that they are a significant part of the problem. Often having a public ‘moan and groan’ about abuse is the last resort after trying to go through the recommended channels, not an attention-seeking first step.

    • Tom Hase says:

      If by “leading singers” you mean only Kaufmann and Netrebko, then I agree that the channel does not attract any leading singers. I would define leading singers as “singers who sing lead roles at major international houses”, and by this definition I would consider singers like Quasthoff, Dohmen or Seiffert as leading singers of their time, and Groissböck, Nylund and Petersen as leading singers of our time. Also singers like Behle, Prohaska, Goerne, Konieczny, Schade, Eiche, Kränzle etc. all have a substantial international career. You might not like some or all of these singers, but to categotizer all of them as frustrated singers with failed careers would be ridiculous. Now, interestingly enough, most of these singers do not share the more radical positions of Mrs. Kulmann, but that’s a different story…

  • Plush says:

    So many fags in opera who hate women.

  • Craug says:

    Sing recitals and share your gifts when the baby comes!