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IN MEMORIAM | Mezzo-Soprano Christa Ludwig Will Remain Unforgettable

By Michael Vincent on April 28, 2021

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The opera community has been mourning the loss of Christa Ludwig, one of the greatest Mezzos of the 20th-century.

She died at her home in Klosterneuburg, Austria on April 24 at age 93.

In a career that lasted nearly five decades, Ludwig executed many operatic roles.

She portrayed everything from Marie in the contemporary Alban Bergs’s Modernist Wozzeck, to Cherubino in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. The latter was her breakthrough role at the Vienna State Opera on April 14, 1955, thrusting her onto the world stage.

Technically mezzo, her vocal range enabled her to sing soprano roles in Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier and Beethoven’s Fidelio. She excelled in a wide range of repertoire in Hungarian, Russian, French, Italian and her German mother tongue.

Who was Christa Ludwig?

  • Her mother was a mezzo-soprano and her father was an opera administrator. She began listening to her mother sing when she was a child.
  • She had made her operatic debut in 1946 at Opera Frankfurt, playing Prince Orlovsky in Strauss’ Die Fledermaus.
  • Ludwig suffered a burst of capillary in her throat in the 1970s which almost ended her career.
  • Besides opera, Ludwig regularly sang lieder with pianists including Sebastian Peschko, Gerald Moore, Geoffrey Parsons and Leonard Bernstein.
  • She was made an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera and an Austrian Kammersangerin in 1972.
  • She was married twice. First to bass-baritone Walter Berry from 1957-70 and to French theatre actor Paul-Emile Deiber who died in 2011.
  • Her most notable recordings include Octavian in Rosenkavalier and Fricka in Die Walkure.
  • In 1994, Ludwig published a memoir In My Own Voice.
  • She performed in a total of 769 performances over 42 roles in Vienna and 119 performances in 15 roles at the MET before retiring in 1994.
  • She worked with all of the greatest conductor of our time, including Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein. She named three cypress trees in her garden after each of them.
  • Ludwig is survived by one son and one stepson, Wolfgang Berry and Philippe Deiber.

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Michael Vincent
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