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In memoriam Christa Ludwig

16 March 1928 – 24 April 2021

Among the most touching moments in the documentary film Ouvertüre 1912, released in 2012 to celebrate the hundredth birthday of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, are the snippets of conversations in which Christa Ludwig (over 80 years old at the time) reminisces on her performances on Bismarckstraße. The warm affinity in her words also served as a reminder that this German mezzo-soprano was one of the greats – along with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Josef Greindl and Elisabeth Grümmer, among others – who gave the Deutsche Oper Berlin its reputation as a world-renowned establishment for singers in the 1960s.

Although Christa Ludwig, born in Berlin in 1928, was never part of the ensemble, audiences in Berlin were able to enjoy Christa from the Opera’s reopening in 1961 onward, watching many of her most important roles and stylistic variety for a decade. She appeared as Amneris in Wieland Wagner's restaging of AIDA, conducted by Karl Böhm, during her Deutsche Oper debut on 29 September 1961 – a role that one would not necessarily associate with her. This was swiftly followed by roles as Dorabella in COSI FAN TUTTE, Ortrud in LOHENGRIN, Brangäne in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE, the Composer in ARIADNE AUF NAXOS, Marie in WOZZECK, Leonore in FIDELIO, and Octavian in ROSENKAVALIER (in which she would later play the role of the Marschallin in 1971). This happy partnership lasted for ten years, and is also attested by photo (FIDELIO) and audio documentation. One example of this is her 1964 recital with the Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra under Heinrich Hollreiser.

Yet Berlin had to share Christa Ludwig with the rest of the world, and only got to see her return after Reunification, namely as Klytaemnestra in ELEKTRA and again in 1994 in a song recital for her farewell tour. She returned one more time in 2014 to impart her extensive knowledge and wealth of stage experience to a master class of young singers.

 

Christa Ludwig passed away at the age of 93 in Klosterneuburg, near Vienna. The Deutsche Oper Berlin joins the rest of the music world in mourning the loss of one of the great singers of the 20th century.

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