Gundula Janowitz, 85 today

Gundula Janowitz, 85 today


norman lebrecht

August 02, 2022

The Austrian soprano, born August 2, 1937, is celebrating today in good health and spirits, we hear.

An outstanding Lieder singer, she retired in 1997.

This happens to be the aria that played in a major Hollywood movie.

And she was not someone you dared to contradict.


  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Happy Birthday! I love your singing, even if by now only on tape.

  • Nick2 says:

    Many happy returns to one of the loveliest of sopranos with an extraordinarily beautiful voice. I had been captivated since first hearing her Sieglinde on the Karajan Walkure. The following year I was a student in Vienna for a couple of months. Returning home via Salzburg I noticed that Ms. Janowitz was giving a matinee recital. Even if I’d had money for a ticket it was sold out. Yet, ever hopeful, I stood outside the hall with as many schillings as I could afford in my hand. No one sold me a ticket. That turned out to be more than fortunate as Ms. Janowitz had had to cancel and been replaced by a different soprano.

    Thereafter, her singing in Haydn’s Creation in Karajan’s first recording of the work remains a marvel that I am constantly playing. I only saw her once on stage – in Gunter Rennert’s Salzburgh production of Cosi fan tutte conducted by Boehm. Magical.

  • Ernest says:

    Janowitz and Margaret Price are my favourites!

  • AndrewB says:

    Beautiful singing was always the hallmark of Gundula Janowitz’s performances. Sensitivity and truthfulness in her interpretations was another trait. A very special singer indeed.

  • Rob says:

    She was good, but not as amazing as Lucia Popp.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      Very different singers, in my opinion. The world had room for both.

      • ThrownOutOfTheKremlinForSinging says:

        That’s like saying “Sugar Ray Leonard was great, but not as great as George Foreman!” Janowitz and Popp were different classes of singer. Different sweet-spot/core range, different style, different repertoire, different technique, with only a little overlap. Janowitz would not sing the Queen of the Night or Despina, and Popp would (probably) not sing the Countess or Leonore (Fidelio), probably not Fiordiligi, and certainly not Sieglinde. There was a little overlap – both sang Pamina, but almost anyone can sing Pamina, the tessitura is centered in the overlapping part of the range.

        Janowitz was almost always perfect, but not quite always. Both her recorded performances in DON GIOVANNI (one as Donna Anna and one as Donna Elvira) were – how to put it – noticeably awkward, obviously just a bit out of her elemental core. Not enough to call them failures, but not the blissful comforting crystalline perfection we expect when we see her name on a record.

        • Dietmar says:

          Popp sung Countess in munich,Saltburn& vienna- she sung Fiordilligi in Vienna & Zurich- sieglinde was planned for zurich ( a year after her sad death)

    • Michael Dolbow says:

      Why are so many opera fans like this?

    • Dietmar says:

      Very true – Lucia was sublime, most definitely the best Susanna ever!

  • Craig Rutenberg says:

    Frau KS Janowitz captivated me as a 15 year old on recordings of the Beethoven Missa Solemnis and Die Walküre. Shortly after I saw her Sieglinde at The Met. Later I was able to attend many performances in Europe.

    Beyond all my wildest dreams then, I was invited to accompany her masterclasses in Baden-Baden in the late 90s. I accepted but took the job as a student who wished to learn.

    Frau Janowitz turned out to be a tough, demanding and absolutely brilliant teacher/coach as well as the great and unforgettable artist we knew.

    Her suggestions to the singers and to me have remained in my mind since then.

    Her kindness at giving me a beautiful note book/calendar at The Jewish New Year moved me deeply.

    Happy 85th, you remarkable woman, and thank you for the beauty you gave us as well as the examples you taught us.

    • Herr Doktor says:

      Craig, you would get my vote as one of the greatest accompanists of all time. You were superb with Ben Heppner (!!) and many other recitals I heard you in here in Boston. I hope you’re well. Thank you for your artistry and the many great concerts I heard you in. You were integral to their success.

      • Craig Rutenberg says:

        Thank you, Herr Doktor. You are very, very kind.

        I was blessed with the marvelous singers I was able to accompany. I think back on that good fortune and joy I had during 20+ years of being in the road.

        Thank you, once again.

  • Glynne Williams says:

    What an amazing singer – and hats off to her for withdrawing from public performance whilst still singing superbly! No long goodbye for her……

  • Chas says:

    Her silvery voice is so very special.

  • M McAlpine says:

    One of the greats. Happy birthday!

  • Gudula is marvellous! says:

    Attending one of her master classes in Baden-Baden was an eye opener, but I saw her singing a lieder recital in the 80s in France.
    That spoke volumes about her voice and class.

    One of the truly greats, – Rosenkavalier, Strauss, Schubert, one of the “old school” who will be sorely missed when she is gone.

  • Margaret Koscielny says:

    Thank you so much for reminding me how wonderful she is. It’s so good to have something beautiful to cry about after all the tragedies of the past weeks.

  • Amos says:

    She sang beautifully in the lone Brahms Requiem recorded by TCO and George Szell in 1969.

  • Angela Giblin says:

    Happy birthday Gundula Janowtiz! And thank you for your marvellous artistry.

  • Gustavo says:

    “Gundula Neinowitz”

  • Tristan says:

    wonderful singer and peerless in the Xmas oratory under Richter as well as Messiah with same conductor – listening to Janowitz and Ludwig with Wunderlich in Bach is incomparable
    Happy Birthday to one of the finest singers ever of last century
    Her symbiosis with the great Karajan is legendary

  • Rik says:

    I heard her sing Strauss’ Four Last Songs with the CBSO and was enthralled.

  • psq says:

    I wonder if anyone remembers or heard Ms Janowitz sang in Italian roles? When she was active, she came regularly to sing something in the Deutsche Oper Berlin every year- a must for me, didn’t matter what. There were successive years on Donna Anna, etc, but also in Ballo in Maschera and as Odabella in Attila. Just the beauty of the voice was enough even though one did not usually associate her voice with these Italian roles. The superb Jose van Dam was Attila.

  • Gundula!!! says:

    An ABSOLUTE ANGEL of a singer! Despite complaints of her diction (or lack thereof, according to them), how can you not FALL IN LOVE with that voice?!

  • Bozidar Sicel says:

    Happy Birthday and my very best wishes for good health and happiness in many, many years to come.
    My greatest gratitude for all the beauty and goodness Ms. Janowitz brought to my 72 years long life. Her singing and her humanity made me a better and happier person.
    Unforgettable angelic voice for ages!

  • Vermeer says:

    My eternal soprano to sing “Vier letze lieder” by R.Strauss.