A while back, I came into a copy of Wilhelm Fürtwangler's RAI Ring, passed along to me by a friend who'd gotten a better transfer. It sat for a couple of years, because of the usual reason - time - and fear of Martha Mödl. Eventually, with the approach of the 2011 San Francisco Ring, I got over my terror and made the time.
The prelude was as expected, but I sat bolt upright and dove for the cast list when I heard the Rheinmaidens, because clearly one of them was a cut, no, two or three cuts, above the standard for Rheinmaidens. The booklet told all: In a remarkable stroke of luxury casting, the recording rejoices in Sena Jurinac as Woglinde. She returns in Götterdämmerung as the Third Norn, Woglinde, and Gutrune, giving an especially memorable performance in the latter ungrateful role.
The great soprano died yesterday at her home in Germany, age 90. She was an enormous star at the Vienna State Opera from 1945 until her retirement in the early 1980s; a commenter on Parterre Box notes that she sang a staggering 1198 performances there. She still made time to sing in San Francisco, Glyndbourne, and other leading theaters, though somehow she never appeared at the Met.
She sang a wide range of music during her long career, from Cherubino, Octavian, and the Composer (roles taken now primarily by mezzos) to the Countess and Donna Anna to a select few Verdi and Puccini roles, among them Butterfly and Elisabetta di Valois, to Jenufa and Marie in Wozzeck to Wagner's Eva. Every recording of hers that I've heard is immaculately sung, with beautiful tone, a secure line, perfect intonation, and dramatic canniness. Even as Elisabetta, with a voice not at all Italianate, her feel for the line and her sense of drama carry the day:
Here she is as a different Elisabeth, this one Wagner's, at La Scala in 1967. And as Mozart's Susanna: