RIP: A mighty soprano has fallen

RIP: A mighty soprano has fallen


norman lebrecht

October 18, 2021

We have been informed of the death today in Zurich of Edita Gruberova, one of the great coloratura sopranos, at the age of 74. No cause has been disclosed.

Slovak by birth, with a German father and Hungarian mother, Gruberova was nudged towards a conservatory education by her family’s pastor. She made her Bratislava debut in 1968 and conquered Vienna two years later. In all, she bestrode the international stage for half a century, retiring in 2019. Although she sang at Covent Garden and the Met, she was less appreciated by English-speaking audiences. In Munich and Vienna, though, she was Queen.

Her signature roles were Queen of the Night, Zerbinetta, Lucia, Violetta and Rosina. She rated her 1980 Met Violetta, with Carlos Kleiber conducting, as perhaps her finest performance.

She married twice, both times to musicians, both ending in divorce.

She was a formidable stage presence whose force of character overcame any latterday vocal decline.

UPDATE: Singers lead tributes here.

2nd UPDATE: How she died.


  • Barry Guerrero says:

    Being a fellow Mahler buff, Norman, I’m sure you’re aware that E. Gruberova made a wonderful vocal contribution to Giuseppe Sinopoli’s Philharmonia recording of Mahler 4 on DG.

  • David G says:

    I saw her as Zerbinetta at the Met, with Leontyne Price as Ariadne. Both extraordinary. But Gruberova, unlike Price, really sullied her reputation by refusing to retire when she was on top. A shame, since she had been a great artist. But we all know some legends who simply can’t give it up.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    A life well lived. RIP

  • Antonietta says:

    This is very sad. I have fond memories of hearing her frequently when I lived in Munich.

  • Gabi Presby says:

    Best Queen of the Night ever!

  • Sebastian says:

    How very sad. One of the world‘s most remarkable voices. I heard her first in Vienna in the 1970s as a member of the ensemble (she was the offstage soprano in the auto-da-fé in Don Carlos). Soon she broke through internationally with Zerbinetta, a role she never stopped developing in ever more extraordinary ways. Over the years I was privileged to hear her many times and every time she stopped whatever show she was in. One could not believe what her voice could do.

    Her Munich farewell in March 2019 – Elisabetta in “Roberto Devereux” – was followed by nearly an hour of applause from her grateful public. RIP.

  • Terence Fleming says:

    I have a lovely CD of Christmas Carols and songs. She had wonderful crystal clear voice. I used to have the video too and she was making gingerbread cookies. (Maybe!)
    Loved to hear her in Mozart and the lighter coloratura roles, but the heavier roles she moved to later in her career didn’t suit the quality of her voice.
    She had quite a cult following, but it saddened me that she did not retire when her voice declined. (A fault of many great singers.)

  • Mercurius Londiniensis says:

    The Met Traviata with Kleiber took place in October 1989, not 1980. Alas, only two of the scheduled five performances actually happened.

    • Player says:

      Yes, was going to point this out too… Kleiber bolted (not sure why, something to do with the changing cast of singers…). What is the source for the notion Edita G. thought it her best performance?

  • Kenny says:

    It was 1989, and a role that didn’t flatter her. But if she liked it, I must be wrong.

  • Vivienne Rose says:

    In total shock. Edita Gruberova was/will always be someone I looked up to and aspired to be (no chance!!). I hope she passed away peacefully. R.I.P Edita

  • Tim says:

    Sad news. Rest in peace.

  • Harpist says:

    Oh no…!
    Now I know why yesterday a soprano posted a link to a lovely recording of Mozart aria’s of her. Didn’t think anything about it and only now found out.

  • BrianB says:

    R.I.P. I wish she’d had more Met performances. Besides the roles mentioned above and her extensive exploration of the Bellini and Donizetti catalogues on Nightingale Classics, I’d place her Entfuhrung Constanze on the Solti recording near the top.

  • Russell D Bowden says:

    Her recording of Mozart’s Constanze (Solti) is a regular listen. Beautiful! RIP.

  • Zandonai says:

    Don’t forget her Fiakermilli in Arabella. I despise that opera and the character of Arabella but the coloratura soprano part is nice.