Christa Ludwig has had an exceptional career and can be regarded as a master of not only her craft but also of management, having made many intelligent artistic choices.
Christa Ludwig was born to musician parents: her father was an opera director and her mother was a professional singer. Christa learnt music at home, playing what she would later term"little games" with her mother. She was allowed to sing naturally and intuitively. It is her mother who taught her the art of performing. In 1946, she was hired in small roles by the Frankfurt Opera. Her "little games" gave way to in-depth study of vocal technique, both at home and at the Hochschule für Musik in Frankfurt. In 1952, she worked with the Darmstadt Opera. Two years later Ludwig met the great conductor Karl Böhm at the Salzburg Festival, where she gave a career defining performance as Cherubin in the Marriage of Figaro by Mozart. Her meeting Böhm was equally decisive: in 1955, he hired her as part of the Vienna Opera company. She worked with the Opera house for almost thirty years.
Another turning point in Christa Ludwig's career took place in 1959, with her first American tour. She performed in Chicago and New York. In 1962, she received the highest official Austrian honour, the title of Kammersängerin. In 1966, she was invited to sing at the Bayreuth Festival. She sang the role of Brangäne in Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, and was recognised as a great interpreter of Wagner. In 1968, she performed another key role that of Maréchale in Chevalier à la rose by Richard Strauss. Like many singers, her voice evolved throughout her career. She was initially a mezzo-soprano (performing in Carmen in Covent Garden, 1976), and even took on soprano roles (such as Leonore in Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven). She however wisely avoided roles such as that of Isolde. Her performances of Schubert's lieder and Schumann, Brahms and Richard Strauss, remain points of reference today. In 1994, she gave her farewell tour.
Six Landmark Dates in the Life of Christa Ludwig
1946 : First appearance with the Frankfurt Opera
1954 : Important meeting with conductor Karl Böhm
1957 : First marriage, to Bass-baritone singer Walter Berry
1959 : First American tour
1966 : First appearance at the Bayreuth Festival
1972 : Second marriage, to the actor and director Paul-Emile Deiber