Beloved Wagnerian Soprano Passes
Report; Posted on: 2006-09-07 20:52:31
Two classic recordings preserve glory of dark-voiced Brünnhilde - magnificently and beautifully sung
BERLIN - Astrid Varnay, the great Hungarian soprano died on September 4th. She was 88.
Astrid Ibolyka Maria Varnay was born in Stockholm on April 25, 1918, to Hungarian parents involved in opera. The family moved to the United States in 1920, where her father, tenor Alexander Varnay, died at age 35 in 1924.
Varnay got her break in 1941 when she filled in for Lotte Lehmann. With no rehearsal, she took over the role of Sieglinde in Wagner's "Die Walküre" in a performance broadcast nationally on radio. Six days later, at age 23, she sang her second professional performance, taking over from Jewess Helen Traubel as Brünnhilde, one of the toughest soprano roles in any repertoire.
She would sing some 200 performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera over her career, eventually leaving over conflicts with director Rudolf Bing, a Jew who was run out of Germany in 1934.
Donald Arthur, co-author of Fifty-Five Years in Five Acts: My Life in Opera, discussed the departure with AP -
Bing "said 'I'm thinking of giving you a leave of absence.' Well, she had a whole raft of contracts waiting for her in Europe and said: 'I don't think I need a leave of absence, I think I need to leave,'" Arthur recalled.
"He said: 'Keep us informed about your career,' and she said: 'You can read about it in your papers.'"
Varnay went on to glory under the guidance of Reich conductors Clemens Krauss and Joseph Keilberth, who worked with her at Bayreuth, home of the legendary Richard Wagner Festival, where she sang every year for 17 years.
Following her husband's death in 1955, Varnay made Germany her permanent home, settling in Munich.
Varnay can be heard at her best in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen recorded live in 1953 under Krauss. In 1955 she made history as Brünnhilde in the first stereo recording at the acoustically superb Festspielhaus, under Keilberth.
Purchase 1953 Krauss Der Ring des Nibelungen
Purchase 1955 Keilberth Der Ring des Nibelungen
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