Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sena Jurinac

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:


sfmike said...

She was a goddess. I was lucky enough to see her at the San Francisco Opera in the mid-1970s near the end of her career when she sang the stepmother Kostelnicka in "Jenufa" with Elizabeth Soderstrom. In the first act, she came out briefly, sang a few shrill notes and made an impression as somebody who still had a voice.

By the end of the second act, which belongs to her character, she was peeling the paint off the back walls of the balcony with sound as she went mad and ran to the river to drown the baby. I've still never heard anything quite like it since.

Her recordings, I have a feeling, don't do her justice though they do give you a good feel for just how musically exciting she was.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Goddess is about my impression of her too. Her Marie is available on a video that I've seen part of on YouTube. I should get the whole DVD.

Robert Gordon said...

I too saw that Jenufa, and although I've seen some great Kostelnickas (including Rysanek and recently Eva Urbanova), nothing compares with Jurinac. At the very end, when Kostelnicka has confessed in public and is arrested, she did something unlike any other performance I've seen: as the police took her away, she threw her shoulders up and her head back and marched off, as if being arrested were the proudest moment of her life. Every time I see Jenufa I hope to see the end done like that (I'm always disappointed, at least so far).

Lisa Hirsch said...

Whoa. (Urbanova WAS great in LA in 2007.)