Episode 208. Happy Birthday, Gundula Janowitz!

Episode 208. Gundula Janowitz



From a very young age I was interested in today’s birthday celebrant, the great Gundula Janowitz, at least partially because of a similarity between her first name and my last name! But even more than that, I was drawn to the ethereal purity of her voice, possessed of an immediately identifiable timbre unlike that of any other singer. From the 1960s through the 1980s, Janowitz was the reigning queen of the jugendlich dramatisch soprano repertoire, excelling in the roles of Mozart, Strauss and Wagner (the so-called wagneriennes blanches heroines), as well as being a Bach singer of the highest order and an exceptional Lieder singer. What is there not to love? Janowitz was also a frequent visitor to the recording studio, and to this day her recordings form a cornerstone of the Deutsche Grammophon catalog. On today’s episode, however, I stick firmly to her live and radio recordings, some of them quite rare, of the repertoire for which she was so justly celebrated. We sample live recordings of her Arabella, Fiordiligi, Agathe, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, as well as a more surprising Elisabetta, the conflicted queen in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Also highlighted is her exceptional and career-defining performance of the role of Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio, in a rare live 1977 from the Orange Festival. Guest vocalists include Lucia Popp and Franco Corelli, This is a mouthful, so I’ll say it for all of us: Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag an eine der gefeiertsten und verehrtesten Sopranistinnen des 20. Jahrhunderts!


Lee Hazlewood: These Boots Are Made for Walkin’. Del Rubio Triplets [Edith, Elena, and Mildred Boyd], Pee Wee Herman [Paul Reubens]. (Pee Wee’s Playhouse 1989)

Richard Strauss, Hermann Hesse: Frühling (Vier letzte Lieder, AV 150/1). Gundula Janowitz, Fritz Rieger, Orchestre National de l’ORTF [live Paris, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, 03.III.71]

Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Leo Feld, revised Julius Korngold [after Friedrich Schiller]: Tagebuch der Laura (Der Ring des Polykrates). Gundula Janowitz, Wilhelm Loibner, Orchester des Österreichischen Rundfunks [1960]

Lucia Popp

Richard Strauss, Hugo von Hofmannsthal: Aber der Richtige (Arabella). Gundula Janowitz, Lucia Popp, Heinrich Hollreiser, Wiener Staatsopernorchester [live Wien 20.IX.76]

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Lorenzo da Ponte: Ei parte… Per pietà, ben mio, perdona (Così fan tutte). Gundula Janowitz, Karl Böhm, Wiener Philharmoniker [live Salzburg 28.VII.74]

Carl Maria von Weber, Friedrich Kind [after Johann August Apel, Friedrich Laun]: Wie nahte mir der Schlummer… Leise, leise, fromme Weise (Der Freischütz). Gundula Janowitz, Karl Böhm, Wiener Staatsopernorchester [live Wien 28.V.72]

Johann Sebastian Bach: Recitative and Aria: Doch Gott muss mir genädig sein… Tief gebückt und voller Reue (Mein Herze schwimmt in Blut, BWV 199). Gundula Janowitz, Mathieu Lange, Members of the Radio Symphonie Orchester Hannover [live radio broadcast, Hannover 1970s]

Richard Wagner: Allmächt’ge Jungfrau, hör mein Flehen! (Tannhäuser). Gundula Janowitz, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Orchestra Sinfonica di Roma della RAI [Perugia 01.X.72]

Corelli and Janowitz in Don Carlo, Wien 1970

Giuseppe Verdi, Joseph Méry, Camille du Locle, Achille de Lauzières [Italian transation] [after Friedrich Schiller]: Io vengo a domandar (Don Carlo). Gundula Janowitz, Franco Corelli, Horst Stein, Wiener Staatsopernorchester [live Wien 25.X.70]

Ludwig Van Beethoven, Joseph Sonnleithner [after Jean-Nicolas Bouilly]: Abscheulicher! Wo eilst du hin?… Komm, Hoffnung… Ich folg’ dem innern Triebe (Fidelio). Gundula Janowitz, Zubin Mehta, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra [live Orange, Summer 1977]

Franz Schubert, Karl Lappe: Im Abendrot, D. 799. Gundula Janowitz, Charles Spencer [live Athens 16.IX.99]

2 thoughts on “Episode 208. Happy Birthday, Gundula Janowitz!”

  1. Very beautiful, and deeply moving. She is one of my dearest friends, and has been for over thirty years, I was with her in Athens at this last recital.

    1. I am honored that you listened to the episode. Please convey to her my great love for her voice and artistry, and my thanks for her many years of service to music. (P.S. That final recital in Athens finds her voice, to my ear, still near the peak of its beauty.)

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