Maria Jeritza (1887-1982)

Carmen by Georges Bizet

Maria Jeritza Maria Jeritza, Baroness Popper, Czech soprano (later a naturalized US citizen), studied in Brno and Prague, made her début at Olmütz in 1910 (a Elsa), then joined the Vienna Volskoper, and in 1912 appeared at the Hofoper. She quickly became an immense favorite in Vienna, where she sang regularly for over two decades. She was an especially admired Tosca, Minnie and Turandot. Among her many Strauss roles she was the first Ariadne in both versions of Ariadne auf Naxos (Stuttgart in 1912 and Vienna in 1919), and the first Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten (Vienna, 1919). Having sung Marietta in the first Vienna performance of Korngold’s Di tote Stadt in 1921, she repeated this role for her Metropolitan début later that year. Of greater musical significance was her Jenufa in both the first Viennese (1918) and first New York (1924) performances of Janacek’s masterpiece. During the next 12 years she became recognized as the Metropolitan’s most glamorous and beautiful star since the days of Geraldine Farrar, and appropriately introduced to New York both Puccini’s Turandot and Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena. Her Covent Garden performances were confined to seven roles during 1925 and 1926, whereas at the Metropolitan she sang 290 performances in 20 roles. After World War II she made isolated appearances in Vienna and New York.

Though endowed with an ample and lustrous voice, Jeritza belonged to the category of artist known as a ‘singing actress’, freely yielding both dramatically and vocally to impulses that were sometimes more flamboyant than refined. In her numerous records, faults of taste and technique co-exist with genuine vocal achievement. (from Desmond Shawe-Taylor)

Unfortunately, the only Jeritza recording I currently have is the Habanera. This is generally considered mezzo soprano territory, but many sopranos have taken on the part.

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