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Sad news: The most serene soprano that ever lived is no more

The Vienna State Opera has announced the death of Lisa Della Casa, the sweetest voiced singer of a fabulous generation. She was 93.

Swiss born, Lisa was renowned for her performances of Richard Strauss, which began in Zurich with the role of Zdenka in Arabella in 1947. She made a landmark recording of Four Last Songs. In Rosenkavalier she sang all three leading female parts – Marschallin, Octavian, Sophie. Abroad, she was first choice in Mozart, singing 47 Almavivas and 34 Elviras at the Met.

Late on, in 1961, she was a very sexy Salome.

Irreplaceable.

UPDATE here.

And elswhere…


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Comments

  1. Thank you, Norman for this post. What beautiful arias and marvelous singing (and Fischer-Dieskau with her in Arabella is fantastic). Thanks also for the Wiki bio. Her generation was quite special. Taking a moment out to appreciate this art and artistry is a respite from this tough world, and a reminder that there is something better.

    • Thank you, Ed, for your tribute and for your compliment on my Wiki article on the great LDC. You are welcome to join the Lisa Della Casa Fan Club at the above website. It is a very sad day for us. I should like to quote you on our page, if you don’t mind.

  2. The Salzburg Festival is flying a black flag today “as a small sign of our grief and of our gratitude.”

    Here’s the press release.

    Das Direktorium der Salzburger Festspiele, zum Tod von Kammersängerin Lisa Della Casa:

    „Die Festspiele verdanken Lisa Della Casa Sternstunden, für die sie von Publikum und Presse gleichermaßen gefeiert wurde“ drückte Festspielpräsidentin Helga Rabl-Stadler ihre Trauer um den Tod der wunderbaren Sängerin aus.

    In Salzburg gehörte sie in den Nachkriegsjahren zu jenen Künstlern, die den Festspielen ihren herausragenden internationalen Ruf gegeben haben. 1947 stand sie das erste Mal als „Zdenka“ in Arabella auf der Festspielbühne und schon nach der ersten Probe prophezeite Richard Strauss, dass „die Kleine eines Tages meine Arabella sein wird.“ Bereits damals feierte man sie als die „erfreulichste Erscheinung des Abend“, eine „natürliche Anmut“ mit „herrlich, wunderbar, konzentriert geführter Stimme“. Elf Jahre später kam Salzburg dann endlich in den Genuss Lisa Della Casa als Arabella erleben zu dürfen und die Kritiken überschlugen sich.

    Ihre Sängerkollegin, die wunderbare Anneliese Rothenberger brachte es auf den Punkt: „Lisa Della Casa ist DIE Arabella aller Zeiten und sie wird es bleiben. Da kam alles zusammen: ihr Auftreten war genauso, wie man sich die Arabella vorstellt. Alles hat gestimmt. Wunderschön, fantastisch gesungen, hochmusikalisch, eine gute Schauspielerin – was wollen sie noch? Sie war geboren um Arabella zu sein“. Kritiker und Millionen von Musikliebhabern teilten diese Bewunderung.

    Für die Entwicklung der Festspiele und ihrer Öffnung gegenüber der Moderne war ihre Interpretation aller drei Frauen Rollen in der Uraufführung von Gottfried von Einems Kafka-Oper Der Prozeß 1953 von besonderer Bedeutung.

    In den folgenden Jahren festigte Lisa Della Casa ihren Ruf als die Maßstab setzende Persönlichkeit im Mozart- und Richard-Strauss-Fach. Auch mit ihrem letzten Auftritt in Salzburg schrieb sie Festspielgeschichte. Nachdem sie 1953 bereits als „Octavian“ einen großen Erfolg feierte, sang sie 1960 in der Eröffnungsvorstellung des neuen Großen Festspielhauses unter Herbert von Karajan die „Feldmarschallin“ im Rosenkavalier. „Zauberhafter als Lisa Della kann man sich diese Partie nicht vorstellen (…) Wie Lisa Della Casa die Gestallt aus dem Zauber ihrer Erscheinung und dem Schmelz ihrer Stimme lebendig werden lässt, ist einzigartig“ überschlug sich die Süddeutsche Zeitung in ihrem Premierenbericht. „In der Rolle der „Feldmarschallin“ wird Lisa Della Casa für immer in unseren Herzen weiterleben“, so Festspielintendant Alexander Pereira.

    Rabl-Stadler: „Die schwarze Fahne, die heute am Festspielhaus weht, ist ein winziges Zeichen für unsere Trauer und große Dankbarkeit.“

  3. Petros Linardos says:

    Here is a link to a portrait of her on her 90th birthday (in German):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Db-5ul161w

  4. What a sublime voice — her Mozart, Strauss…I will always treasure her recordings which should be part of every vocal maven’s CD and LP collections. Thanks for posting the videos, Norman.

  5. The last star of the golden era of Wiener Staatsoper and Salzburg Festival has fallen. Lisa della Casa is an unforgettable interpreter of Mozart and Richard Strauss. For me, she is the only Contessa Almaviva, the only Marschallin, and above all the only Arabella.
    I am sorry that she had to leave Salzburg Festival after 1960 because of the evil intrigue behind her back by Walter Legge and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf surrounding the casting for “Der Rosenkavalier”. Well, her nature could not stand such ugly things in the music business.
    Rest in peace, our Arabellissima.

  6. P.S. Do you know whether the “Arabella” on 25th October 1973 at Wiener Staatsoper was her final stage performance or not? I am not sure, because she announced her retirement in 1974.

    • Jean-Jacques Berger says:

      I thing that Mrs Della Casa sang for the last time in Vienne, year 1974, with Ilia in Idomeneo…

      • According to the performance archive of Wiener Staatsoper homepage, her last Ilia at Wiener Staatsoper was on 24th April, 1972. And her last performance at Wiener Staatsoper was as Arabella on 25th October 1973. I would like to know if this performance of Arabella on 25th October 1973 was her last performance on stage. As she announced her retirement in 1974, it is possible that she might have sung at Zurich Opera House or elsewhere after her last performance at Wiener Staatsoper.

  7. A truly heavenly voice. I have the recording of the four last songs by Strauss. Beautifully sung. And how good to see Mozart sung and acted as the composer and da Ponte wanted it rather than dressed up in some lunatic modern production.

  8. By the way, also according to the performance archive of Wiener Staatsoper homepage, Lisa della Casa had sung in 411 complete opera performances at Wiener Staatsoper – debut as Nedda in “I Pagliacci” on 18th October 1947, farewell as the title role in “Arabella” on 25th October 1973. As for her greatest rival Elisabeth Schwarzkopf… she had sung in 152 complete opera performances at Wiener Staatsoper – debut as Zerbinetta in “Ariande auf naxos” on 7th October 1942, farewell as the Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier” on 3rd February 1965.

    Della Casa and Schwarzkopf had shared eleven roles at Wiener Staatsoper, and Della Casa had sung more than Schwarzkopf in nine roles among them. The comparison as as below:
    - Countess Almaviva in “Le Nozze di Figaro” : Della Casa = 64 times / Schwarzkopf = 18 times
    - Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni” : Della Casa = 29 times / Schwarzkopf = 7 times
    - Pamina in “Die Zauberfloete” : Della Casa = 38 times / Schwarzkopf = 4 times
    - Sophie in “Der Rosenkavalier” : Della Casa = 14 times / Schwarzkopf = 4 times
    - Marschallin in “Der Rosenkavalier” : Della Casa = 43 times / Schwarzkopf = 20 times
    - Countess Madeleine in “Capriccio” : Della Casa = 21 times / Schwarzkopf = 13 times
    - Eva in “Der Meistersinger in Nuernberg” : Della Casa = 12 times / Schwarzkopf = 1 times
    - Nedda in “I Pagliacci” : Della Casa = 10 times / Schwarzkopf = 3 times
    - Marzelline in “Fidelio” : Della Casa = 6 times / Schwarzkopf = 5 times

    Only in two roles, Shcwarzkopf had sung more than Della Casa as below:
    - Fiordiligi in “Cosi Fan Tutte” : Schwarzkopf = 17 times / Della Casa = 9 times
    - Gilda in “Rigoletto” : Schwarzkopf = 22 times / Della Casa = 5 times

    But… until now many books and articles tend to say that Shcwarzkopf was the soprano that reigned Wiener Staatsoper as Countess Almaviva, Donna Elvira, the Marschallin, and Countess Madeleine. Perhaps because of Schwarzkopf’s vast legacy of recording thanks to her powerful husband Walter Legge? Or perhaps because of the publicity also by Walter Legge? Anyway, compared with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, I think that Lisa della Casa has been unfairly underestimated by the press.

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