© Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe, Siegfried 2019


A tribute to Christa Ludwig
Christa Ludwig, the mezzo-soprano who became a legend during her lifetime, died on Sunday 25 April at the age of 93
She became a legend not only for her mezzo voice but also for her singing and her excursions into the dramatic realms of the soprano.

Her repertoire in fact included all the registers of highly dramatic singing, which she used quite consciously and sensitively.

Above all, Christa Ludwig belongs to the great personalities who radiate not only into our present but who will leave a global impression for future generations, for whom she will provide inspiration and a benchmark to aim for.

In her autobiography entitled "und ich wäre so gern Primadonna gewesen" (and I would have loved to have been a prima donna), she reveals much about her life on and off the stage, but also about private events that did not always make it easy for her to lead a normal private life. I think she was and still is "Primadonna gewesen" in the most positive sense!

In Bayreuth in 1966 she sang the part of Brangäne with Birigt Nilsson as Isolde, Wolfgang Windgassen as Tristan, Martti Talvela as King Marke and the very young Peter Schreiber as the Seaman in the production by Wieland Wagner and under the baton of Karl Böhm, with whom she also worked a lot in Salzburg. In 1967 she sang the role of Kundry in Bayreuth with James King as Parsifal, also in the production by Wieland Wagner.

Christa Ludwig leaves behind one of the most uniquely extensive repertoires of recordings, spanning her 49-year career. Fascinating above all is the fact that she has made these recordings with all the world's great stars on almost every medium from live to studio. In this way she also achieved roles of the highest perfection that she could not necessarily realise live on stage.

Her masterclasses were highly popular, always in demand, and filled up quickly with a long enrollment list. She was known for her kind remarks in classes and one always noticed that she passed on her knowledge and skills with love and warmth of heart.

But she was also one of the few famous great singers who, in a conversation with me, took a clear position directly about directorial concepts she did not like. To my question "how do you deal with a directorial concept that does not suit you" she answered "I tell the director plainly and clearly what I think of his concept and I know that this director and I will never work together again, but I am also aware that I can only afford that because I carry a "big name"!"

Christa Ludwig chose three big farewell tours for herself, which she tailored precisely to suit herself and her repertoire. With the first tour she said farewell to opera with Klytämnestra, the widow of Agamemnon in Elektra by Richard Strauss, a brilliant experience of pulsating dramatic singing and consummate expressiveness in the role.

Her second farewell tour was with "Winterreise" by Franz Schubert, congenially accompanied on the piano by Tzimon Barto. Here her art of modeling literally knew no bounds without slipping into mannerisms.  There was dead silence from the audience followed by roaring applause.

She gave her third farewell tour with an opera and song repertoire of a special kind. It included familiar arias of different epochs up to modern pieces by Chris Barber and Leonard Bernstein. She sang Bernstein's lines at the end of the evening to rousing stormy applause:

"I hate music but I like to sing".

Rainer Fineske