ORFEO International


November 2008

In Memory of Christel Goltz

She was one of the truly great hochdramatisch sopranos of the early post-war period, even though her recordings unfortunately provide only an inadequate reflection of her Wagnerian repertory. As a result, Christel Goltz is remembered above all as an exceptionally vivid exponent of early 20th-century works, most notably as the fearless interpreter of some of Richard Strauss’s most demanding female roles. As Salome – a role for which Goltz, trained as both a singer and as a dancer, was very much predestined – she triumphed all over the world. Another of the roles with which she was particularly closely associated was that of the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten. She may be heard in this part in Orfeo’s live recording of the production staged to mark the reopening of the Vienna State Opera in 1955 (C 668 053). This same series of gala performances also included one of Wozzeck at which she sang the part of Marie. (Excerpts from both these performances may be heard on C 666 083.) Christel Goltz began her professional career in Dresden, and after three years in Berlin, she joined the Vienna State Opera in 1950, bidding farewell to the stage there twenty years later after a total of more than 430 performances. With her full-toned soprano, her ability to retain her youthful timbre over the course of much of her career, her powerfully radiant top notes and her excellent diction, she represented a style of singing that was timelessly “modern”, even if her use of portamento, typical of singers of her own generation, may no longer be so common. It was for all these reasons that Herbert von Karajan chose her in 1957 for the part of Leonore in his Salzburg production of Fidelio, a production that marked the start of his reign as the Festival’s artistic director. Both this initial run of performances and the following year’s revival were a personal triumph for Christel Goltz, and yet they also marked her departure from the Festival, where she appeared – invariably successfully – over a period of only seven years. As Marie in Wozzeck she sang in the first Salzburg production of Berg’s opera in 1951 under Karl Böhm, returning as Elettra in Mozart’s Idomeneo and as Penelope in the world première of Rolf Liebermann’s opera of the same name, which she sang under George Szell at the 1954 Festival (Orfeo C 328 931). In the concert hall she was also heard in Strauss’s Four Last Songs. Among the many great conductors with whom Christel Goltz worked were Sir Georg Solti, their artistic partnership documented by Orfeo’s recording of Carl Orff’s Antigonae, in which she took the title role (C 407 952). Christel Goltz died on 14 November 2008 at the age of ninety-six. She will be remembered as a remarkable example of a performer who was able to maintain the delicate balance between membership of a traditional ensemble and international fame, and between impressive vocal power and subtle characterization.