ORFEO International


September 2016

Julia Varady 75th Anniversary

Julia Varady, who celebrates her 75th birthday on September 1, 2016, was in every sense of the word an exceptional singer. Julia Varady
Julia Varady
From the very beginning of her career through to her departure from the stage 33 years later in 1997, before she had reached the age of 56, the Hungarian-born artist who initially trained as a mezzo-soprano captivated audiences in the most diverse of roles with her inimitable timbre – brilliant throughout her career but not over-sweet, allowing her to shine to perfection in roles spanning all styles from Mozart through Wagner to Mascagni and Reimann – and above all her incomparable stage presence.
In 1971 – at the age of 29 – she played Vitellia in the now legendary staging of La Clemenza di Tito by Jean Pierre-Ponnelle at the Cuvilliés-Theater in Munich, and her reading of the burning, passionate Elvira (Don Giovanni, 1973) and no less intensive Elettra (Idomeneo, 1975), plus numerous Verdi roles (Traviata, Elisabetta, Aida, Leonora in Trovatore and La Forza, in Munich alone from 1974 through to the late 80s), proved unforgettable. She could give an equally grandiose performance as a maliciously seething Abigaille in Nabucco – even when it was a concertante production that was not of her choice – and a gentle Desdemona under Carlos Kleiber.
Julia Varady mastered many youthful dramatic roles at that time too – Wagnerʼs Senta, Sieglinde and Eva – in each under the baton of Wolfgang Sawallisch at the Bavarian State Opera, which along with the Deutsche Oper in Berlin was to become her artistic home. From 1972 she was a member of the Munich opera company after spending ten years from 1962 in Cluj (Romania) overlapping with several years in Frankfurt am Main. Julia Varady also enjoyed great success in works by Richard Strauss: her Arabella played side by side with her husband Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau from 1977 (also in Munich) is legendary, as is her Cordelia to Fischer-Dieskauʼs Lear in the premiere of the eponymous opera by Aribert Reimann in 1978.
Being a perfect Russian speaker, she was able to sing in the language and was therefore predestined to play Tatyana (in Tchaikovskyʼs Eugene Onegin in 1977) and Lisa (in Pique Dame in 1984) – as well as performing Pyotr Illyichʼs songs accompanied by Aribert Reimann at the piano. Some of her outstanding Munich roles were recorded by the Orfeo label live at the cityʼs Nationaltheater, though she also made excellent recordings of less well known material in the studio, such as the title roles of Louis Spohrʼs Jessonda and Gaspare Spontiniʼs Olympie, and also recorded recitals of Verdi, Wagner, Puccini and Strauss for Orfeo.