On Monday, the coloratura soprano Edita Gruberová died. She was only 74. In her heyday (late 1970s – ca. 2010) she was perhaps the best coloratura soprano in the world. In the late 1970s, her dazzling career began with Lucia di Lammermoor in Vienna. She had a perfect technique (she was also a formidable Queen of the Night). Unfortunately, we did not hear her live in her best years, but we did hear her in her latter days, twice, and twice she sang fairly disastrously. Very unfortunate.
She was a prima donna in every sense of the word, with characteristic prima-donnaged behavior. She was upset if the audience didn’t applaud hard enough. She was displeased when another singer was cast in the bel-canto roles she had wanted to sing. She was displeased with the attitude of record companies. But she was also rightfully unruly when a “modern” director once again came up with an insane “concept”. In that respect she was very praiseworthy! We attended her Lucrezia Borgia in 2016, and we were curious during the performance how the Munich audience would react to the completely unacceptable filling of the title role. To our amazement, the “opera lovers” went wild for Gruberová, a form of pure mass hysteria. Yes, even in Munich the motivation to attend an opera does not always come from qualitative motives.
Edita Gruberová in top shape. Mad Scene Lucia di Lammermoor. 1986, Wenen.
It is unfortunate, but we cannot escape the conclusion that Gruberová went on too long. In her latter days she gave many concerts, which she herself enjoyed very much because she had nothing to do with lame directors. We can understand that. The audience, or rather the fans, thought it was all wonderful. But it wasn’t.
We envy those who heard Edita Gruberová in her heyday. The non-privileged have to make do with her recordings. Plenty to enjoy!