Ljuba Welitsch has been described as a meteor which flashed across the firmament of opera. Her major career was short, but when she was in her prime, just after WWII, there was nothing like her in the German repertory. She was most famous for her interpretation of Strauss’s Salome. Her rendition of the final scene of Salome is nothing short of earth shattering (I do tend to hyperbole, but in this case, I am absolutely serious). Because the theme of that opera as well as the singing itself would probably make you fall off your chair, I will post Welitsch’s rendition at a later time. Another thing that Welitsch was known for was on-stage and off-stage antics, of a somewhat ribald nature. None of that will be discussed here. Rather, as an introduction to Ljuba (she is one of those sopranos who has to be called by her first name), I am posting several Brahms lieder, the Czardas from Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss Jr., and three other songs, one each by Richard Strauss, Schumann, and Schubert. I will post the German and the English translations where I can. If I can’t post the English translations, I will point you to links with those translations.
What made Ljuba special? In the production of tone, there was no drag anywhere on the voice. What do I mean by that? The voice was entirely free with no grab in the throat or tightening of the tongue anywhere. The breath and the tone passed through the throat to the resonating cavities of the head. There is no overdarkening of sound, which is an unfortunate phenomenon that we get today. The pitch is always on the high side of the note, as if it is sliding up to the next tone, but is always in tune. When she was in her prime, Liuba was a miracle of signing.
Lyuba Welitsch was born on July 10, 1913 in Borissovo, Bulgaria and died September 2, 1996, Vienna, Austria) was a Bulgarian, later Austrian, operatic soprano. She studied singing at Sofia Conservatory with professor Georgi Zlatev-Cherkin. She first appeared in Sofia in 1936. Engagements followed in Graz, Hamburg, Munich and finally at the Vienna State Opera.
Her most famous role was that of Salome, which she performed under the composer, Richard Strauss, himself in 1944 on his 80th birthday. She sang the same role for her London debut in 1947 and her first performance at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City on February 4, 1949.