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Júlia Várady, a German soprano of Hungarian extraction, was born on 1 September 1941 in what today is Oradea, Romania. Aged six, she began violin lessons and studied at the music conservatory in Cluj. At fourteen she discovered her voice and began training as a singer with Emilia Popp. At the same time she started a course on music education. She made her debut in Cluj in 1962 as a mezzo-soprano, singing the roles of Orfeo in Gluck's opera and Fiordiligi in Mozart's Così fan tutte.
In 1970 she auditioned for Christoph Dohnányi and was engaged at the Frankfurt Opera in Germany. A year later she had a resounding success at the Munich Opera Festival in Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. She subsequently became a member of the Munich Opera Ensemble and later the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. Soon she made guest appearances at all major German opera houses, at Covent Garden and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. More successes were to follow at the Met, the Vienna Staatsoper and the Salzburg Festival.
Várady's first established reputation was as a Mozart singer, and under Karl Böhm she recorded many famous roles of the Mozartian repertoire.
Listen — Mozart: Der Zauberer K 472
(CD8 track 6, 0:00-0:30) ℗ 1981-2001 Orfeo International Music GmbH :
Later, she became much sought after for her interpretations in the Italian repertoire, with Verdi, Puccini and Mascagni at the forefront of her engagements. Added to this staggering variety were the successes she achieved as Tchaikovsky's Tatiana and that of the composer in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. One can also include Senta in Wagner's The Flying Dutchman.
Listen — Richard Strauss: Es gibt ein Reich wo alles rein ist (Ariadne auf Naxos)
(CD6 track 4, 0:59-1:54) ℗ 1981-2001 Orfeo International Music GmbH :
A milestone in Várady's career was the creation of the role of Cordelia at the 1978 premiere of Aribert Reimann's opera Lear at the Bayerische Opera House in Munich. She retired from the opera stage in 1996.
In 1978 Júlia Várady married the famous baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. They met in Munich in 1973 during rehearsals of Puccini's Il Tabarro, and from then on the couple performed together as often as possible, both on stage and concerts the world over. They have also made their mark in the recording studio, leaving for posterity many memorable singing sessions.
Listen — Richard Strauss: Schlussszene (Capriccio)
(CD6 track 9, 12:13-13:11) ℗ 1981-2001 Orfeo International Music GmbH :
Dietrich died in 2012 and this is what Júlia had to say of her beloved husband: 'He was always a mirror who made my strengths and weaknesses apparent to me, and even his criticism was kind and productive.' She is presently a guest professor at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler in Berlin.
Júlia Várady was as prolific in the recording studio as she was on stage, and every album that she made was indeed an event in itself. Not only was her singing passionate and uniquely dramatic, but her wondrous ability to surmount all the technical demands of the music was astounding.
Listen — Tchaikovsky: Softly the spirit flew up to Heaven
(CD9 track 6, 1:39-2:21) ℗ 1981-2001 Orfeo International Music GmbH :
This ten-disc CD set from Orfeo encapsulates all of her flawless features as a singer, whether it was opera or song, and in disc after disc one can revel in all the beauty of her characterization as it unfolds in a way that transfixes the listener from beginning to end.
Whether it is Isolde (Wagner) or Leonora (Verdi), be sure to fall under her spell.
Listen — Verdi: Timor di me (Il Trovatore)
(CD1 track 3, 4:36-5:21) ℗ 1981-2001 Orfeo International Music GmbH :
This exhilarating collection is indeed a fitting tribute to one of the greatest singers of the twentieth century, and who incidentally is still with us. On the first of last month Júlia Várady celebrated her eightieth birthday, so, on behalf of myself and all admirers all over the world, I would like to say, Thank You Júlia, for giving us your heart in your music. An unmissable operatic memento.
Copyright © 31 October 2021
CD INFORMATION: JÚLIA VÁRADY - THE ORFEO RECORDINGS