|With Jon Vickers, (c) EMI, presumed from Fidelio recording sessions|
I once sent my Respected Father--in response to an inquiry! little did he know what he was letting himself in for--an e-mail trying to represent Ludwig's repertoire. It included Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Saint-Saens, Mahler (criminally abbreviated,) Wagner (I could listen to her invoking Wotan and Freia forever,) Rachmaninov, and "I am easily assimilated" from Bernstein's Candide: Obviously I left a lot out, including Carmen (I had a hard time imagining that one, I admit, but I was won over,) and her very moving Suzuki and Adalgisa. (Vaguely apropos, Ludwig has my vote for best opera memoir title ever, as well: Und ich wäre so gern Primadonna gewesen.) Another happy confluence of my obsessions occurs when Ludwig sings Lieder; check out the dark, passionate energy of her Gretchen am Spinnrade, or the text-caressing of Sapphische Ode. I recently decided to treat myself to the (cheap for a set!) 5-CD collection The Art of Christa Ludwig, which, while far from exhaustive, does include lots of Lieder, and makes me very happy.
In addition to all this fabulousness, Christa Ludwig strikes me as the sort of warm, sharp-sighted person who would, were she an aunt, dispense good coffee, possibly biscuits, and definitely no-nonsense advice. See, for instance, this three-part interview (in French.) Predictably, my favorite bit is when the interviewer asks if she has a favorite role, and she answers "Fidelio--Leonore in Fidelio," almost before the words are out of his mouth... and then, after a pause, adds with burbling laughter: "Or the witch, in Hansel and Gretel! That was fun!" Then there are gems like her dancing a tango, or the column on page three of a brochure from the Salzburg Festspiele where she cheerfully reminisces, and talks about the present and future of opera with equal good spirits. And she quotes Rilke (original here):
I live my life in ever-growing circles
that reach out over all things.
I may not bring the last task to completion
but I will make the attempt.
I circle around God, around the oldest tower,May she have many more full years.
and I have been circling for thousands of years
and I don't know yet--am I a falcon, a storm,
or a great song?