So far, I haven’t made a post with only one song.  In this case, you will have to forgive me.  This is my absolute favorite Brahms Lied.  The words are as follows:

This song attempts to depict silence and stillness in music, a paradox and a challenge.  The vocal line ascends the staff in quarter notes, elemental arpeggios of tonic then dominant harmony, but it soon takes off into wafting 8th notes that describe the singer’s gaze traveling far up into the distance—‘nach oben, nach oben’.

The second musical verse enters a world of dreams both poetically and harmonically.  The line ‘Mir ist, als ob ich längst gestorben bin’ is set as something apart; for these words with just a hint of something ominous.  But then the music rises out off those darker realms and wafts once more into the ‘ew’ge Räume’ of the stratosphere.

The performers:  we will hear four renditions of this Lied by the following singers:  Ria Ginster, Alexander Kipnis, Leopoldo Demuth, and Lisa Della Casa.  Why have I chosen these singers?  I was searching through youtube to see who had recorded this Lied, and I was searching for the ability to sing long, Brahmsian lines, with very high placement of the air and the tone.  I have heard too many renditions of this song where the vowels are so over-darkened that it becomes painful to listen to.  With the correct placement of air and tone, there is no over-darkening of the vowels, and the singer can do anything.  The sound of some of these recordings may not be great, but you will understand what I was looking for.  The question for you to answer is can any singer do justice to the poetry and to Brahms’s melody and harmonics?  There is a great deal to communicate in this Lied. Do any of the four below do it justice?

Ich ruhe still im hohen grünen Gras
Und sende lange meinen Blick nach oben,
Von Grillen rings umschwirrt ohn Unterlaß,
Von Himmelsbläue wundersam umwoben.

Die schönen weißen Wolken ziehn dahin
Durchs tiefe Blau, wie schöne stille Träume;
Mir ist, als ob ich längst gestorben bin
Und ziehe selig mit durch ew’ge Räume.

I rest silently in the tall green grass
and send my gaze upwards for a long time,
surrounded by crickets whirring unceasingly,
by the blues of heaven wondrously enfolded.

The beautiful white clouds drag themselves along
through the deep blue, like beautiful silent dreams;
to me, it is as if I have long been dead
and I am dragged blissfully along through eternal space.

Ria Ginster

Born: April 15, 1898 – Frankfurt/Main, German, Died: May 11, 1985 – Zürich, Switzerland

The German soprano and influential teacher, Ria Ginster, was the daughter of a pianist and choir conductor. After high school, she began vocal studies at Dr. Hoch’s Conservatory in Frankfurt and completed it with a concert singer diploma. She took further studies with the renowned singing coach Louis Bacher (this was also Schlusnus’s teacher) at the Academy of Music in Berlin. Already as a student she won numerous awards.

From the very beginning of her career Ria Ginster sang on concert platforms of first rank in Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France as well as in Italy. She concentrated almost exclusively on concert performances and recitals (although she sang Mélisande and Suor Angelica in broadcasts). In 1931 she appeared in England where she was particularly admired in a number of oratorios. She returned to England every year and she was contracted by His Master’s Voice.

In 1938, Ria Ginster took over a class for concert singing at the Music Academy of Zürich where she remained more than 30 years. Her reputation as a singer was transmitted to her teaching and her class soon became an international one. After several concerts with Wilhelm Furtwängler she was invited in 1949 to work as a teacher at the Mozarteum Salzburg. As a visiting professor she also taught for a long time at several universities in the USA.   She died in Zürich in 1985.

Leopoldo Demuth

Demuth’s real name was Leopold Pokorny. His voice was discovered during his military service. He studied singing with Joseph Gänsbacher in Vienna and made his debut in 1889 at the Municipal Theatre of Halle (Saale)  in ‘’Hans Heiling’’ of Marschner. In the 1891-96 seasons he sang at the Opera House of Leipzig, from 1896-98 Demuth appeared at the Municipal Theatre of Hamburg. In 1898 he was engaged by the Vienna Court Opera, where his career reached the climax. On January 2, 1908 he sang there in the premiere of the opera ‘’Ein Wintermärchen’’ of Goldmark. In the same year he took over at the Vienna première of d’Alberts ‘’Tiefland’’. Already in 1904 he performed at the Vienna Court Opera in an unforgettable performance of Gluck’s ‘’Iphigenie in Aulis’’. He made guest appearances at different German and Austrian opera houses. Thus he sang in the Wagner-Festspielen of Munich (1903 and 1905), at the Berlin Court Opera (1897), also in Frankfurt a. M.,Cologne, Leipzig, Wroclaw and at the German Theatre of Prague (1907). In 1899 he appeared at Bayreuth Festival the role of Hans Sachs in ‘’Meistersingers’’ and the Gunther in ‘’Götterdämmerung’’. He was married to actress Eugenie Lenau, who was engaged temporarily by the German theatre in Berlin. He was one of the best baritones of his time.

Alexander Kipnis

Alexander Kipnis (February 13, 1891 – May 14, 1978) was a Ukrainian-born operatic bass. Having initially established his artistic reputation in Europe, Kipnis became an American citizen in 1931, following his marriage to an American. He appeared often at the Chicago Opera before making his belated début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1940.

Early life

Aleksandr Kipnis was born in Zhytomyr, the capital of the Volhynian Governorate, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). His impoverished family of seven lived in a Jewish ghetto. After his father died, when he was aged 12, he helped support the family as a carpenter’s apprentice and by singing soprano in local synagogues and in Bessarabia (now Moldova) until his voice changed. As a teenager he took part in a Yiddish theatrical group, until he entered the Warsaw Conservatory at age 19. On the recommendation of the choirmaster, he traveled to Berlin and studied voice with Ernst Grenzebach who was also a teacher of Lauritz Melchior, Meta Seinemeyer, and Max Lorenz.

When the First World War started, Kipnis was interned as an alien in a German holding camp. While singing to himself he was overheard by an army captain whose brother was general manager of the Wiesbaden Opera. Kipnis was released from custody and he was engaged by the Hamburg Opera. He made his operatic debut in 1915, singing three Johann Strauss songs as a “guest” in the party scene of the operetta Die Fledermaus. In 1917, he moved to the Wiesbaden Opera, having gained invaluable stage experience. He sang in more than 300 performances at Wiesbaden until 1922, when he joined the Berlin Staatsoper

International career

The following year Kipnis visited the United States with a touring Wagnerian company. For nine seasons, between 1923 and 1932, he was on the roster of the Chicago Civic Opera. In 1927, at the Bayreuth Festival, he appeared as Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal under Karl Muck and recorded the Good Friday Music under Siegfried Wagner. He also appeared at the Salzburg Festival.

Kipnis was under contract with the Berlin Opera until 1935, when he was able to break his contract and flee Nazi Germany. He appeared for three seasons as a guest performer with the Vienna State Opera in 1936–1938. Just after the Anschluss, he left Europe and settled permanently in the United States. By the time he was finally signed by the Metropolitan in 1940 he had appeared in most of the world’s major opera houses.

Kipnis was regarded throughout the inter-war years as being one of the greatest basses in the world. He was praised for the beauty of his smooth and mellow voice and the excellence of his musicianship.

Kipnis showed signs of vocal deterioration during the 1940s, and he retired from the Met in 1946. He made his last concert appearance in 1951. Since his debut in 1915, he had sung at least 108 roles, often in more than one language, and his performances in opera and oratorio numbered more than 1,600. He died in Westport, Connecticut in 1978, aged 87.

Ria Ginster

Born: April 15, 1898 – Frankfurt/Main, German, Died: May 11, 1985 – Zürich, Switzerland

The German soprano and influential teacher, Ria Ginster, was the daughter of a pianist and choir conductor. After high school, she began vocal studies at Dr. Hoch’s Conservatory in Frankfurt and completed it with a concert singer diploma. She took further studies with the renowned singing coach Louis Bacher (this was also Schlusnus’s teacher) at the Academy of Music in Berlin. Already as a student she won numerous awards.

From the very beginning of her career Ria Ginster sang on concert platforms of first rank in Germany, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and France as well as in Italy. She concentrated almost exclusively on concert performances and recitals (although she sang Mélisande and Suor Angelica in broadcasts). In 1931 she appeared in England where she was particularly admired in a number of oratorios. She returned to England every year and she was contracted by His Master’s Voice.

In 1938 Ria Ginster took over a class for concert singing at the Music Academy of Zürich where she remained more than 30 years. Her reputation as a singer was transmitted to her teaching and her class soon became an international one. After several concerts with Wilhelm Furtwängler she was invited in 1949 to work as a teacher at the Mozarteum Salzburg. As a visiting professor she also taught for a long time at several universities in the USA.   She died in Zürich in 1985.

Leopoldo Demuth, Baritone

Demuth’s real name was Leopold Pokorny. His voice was discovered during his military service. He studied singing with Joseph Gänsbacher in Vienna and made his debut in 1889 at the Municipal Theatre of Halle (Saale)  in ‘’Hans Heiling’’ of Marschner. In the 1891-96 seasons he sang at the Opera House of Leipzig, from 1896-98 Demuth appeared at the Municipal Theatre of Hamburg. In 1898 he was engaged by the Vienna Court Opera, where his career reached the climax. On January 2, 1908 he sang there in the premiere of the opera ‘’Ein Wintermärchen’’ of Goldmark. In the same year he took over at the Vienna première of d’Alberts ‘’Tiefland’’. Already in 1904 he performed at the Vienna Court Opera in an unforgettable performance of Gluck’s ‘’Iphigenie in Aulis’’. He made guest appearances at different German and Austrian opera houses. Thus he sang in the Wagner-Festspielen of Munich (1903 and 1905), at the Berlin Court Opera (1897), also in Frankfurt a. M.,Cologne, Leipzig, Wroclaw and at the German Theatre of Prague (1907). In 1899 he appeared at Bayreuth Festival the role of Hans Sachs in ‘’Meistersingers’’ and the Gunther in ‘’Götterdämmerung’’. He was married to actress Eugenie Lenau, who was engaged temporarily by the German theatre in Berlin. He was one of the best baritones of his time.

Alexander Kipnis

Alexander Kipnis (February 13, 1891 – May 14, 1978) was a Ukrainian-born operatic bass. Having initially established his artistic reputation in Europe, Kipnis became an American citizen in 1931, following his marriage to an American. He appeared often at the Chicago Opera before making his belated début at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1940.

Early life

Aleksandr Kipnis was born in Zhytomyr, the capital of the Volhynian Governorate, in the Russian Empire (now Ukraine). His impoverished family of seven lived in a Jewish ghetto. After his father died, when he was aged 12, he helped support the family as a carpenter’s apprentice and by singing soprano in local synagogues and in Bessarabia (now Moldova) until his voice changed. As a teenager he took part in a Yiddish theatrical group, until he entered the Warsaw Conservatory at age 19. On the recommendation of the choirmaster, he traveled to Berlin and studied voice with Ernst Grenzebach who was also a teacher of Lauritz Melchior, Meta Seinemeyer, and Max Lorenz.

When the First World War started, Kipnis was interned as an alien in a German holding camp. While singing to himself he was overheard by an army captain whose brother was general manager of the Wiesbaden Opera. Kipnis was released from custody and he was engaged by the Hamburg Opera. He made his operatic debut in 1915, singing three Johann Strauss songs as a “guest” in the party scene of the operetta Die Fledermaus. In 1917, he moved to the Wiesbaden Opera, having gained invaluable stage experience. He sang in more than 300 performances at Wiesbaden until 1922, when he joined the Berlin Staatsoper

International career

The following year Kipnis visited the United States with a touring Wagnerian company. For nine seasons, between 1923 and 1932, he was on the roster of the Chicago Civic Opera. In 1927, at the Bayreuth Festival, he appeared as Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal under Karl Muck and recorded the Good Friday Music under Siegfried Wagner. He also appeared at the Salzburg Festival.

Kipnis was under contract with the Berlin Opera until 1935, when he was able to break his contract and flee Nazi Germany. He appeared for three seasons as a guest performer with the Vienna State Opera in 1936–1938. Just after the Anschluss, he left Europe and settled permanently in the United States. By the time he was finally signed by the Metropolitan in 1940 he had appeared in most of the world’s major opera houses.

Kipnis was regarded throughout the inter-war years as being one of the greatest basses in the world. He was praised for the beauty of his smooth and mellow voice and the excellence of his musicianship.

Kipnis showed signs of vocal deterioration during the 1940s, and he retired from the Met in 1946. He made his last concert appearance in 1951. Since his debut in 1915, he had sung at least 108 roles, often in more than one language, and his performances in opera and oratorio numbered more than 1,600. He died in Westport, Connecticut in 1978, aged 87.

Lisa Della Casa

Lisa Della Casa (February 2, 1919 – December 10, 2012) was a Swiss soprano most admired for her interpretations of major heroines in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss, and of German lieder. She was also described as “the most beautiful woman on the operatic stage”.

Biography

Della Casa was born in Burgdorf, Switzerland to an Italian-Swiss father, Francesco Della Casa, and a Bavarian-born mother, Margarete Mueller. She began studying singing at the age of 15 at the Zurich Conservatory, and her teachers included Margarete Haeser.

She made her operatic debut in the title role of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Solothurn-Biel Municipal Theater in 1940. She joined the ensemble of Zurich Municipal Opera House in 1943 (staying there until 1950) and sang various parts, from the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute to Dorabella in Così fan tutte. Later she sang Fiordiligi. She sang the part of Zdenka in the performance of Richard Strauss’s Arabella at Zurich Municipal Opera House alongside Maria Cebotari’s Arabella in 1946. Cebotari recognized her talent and introduced her at the Salzburg Festival in 1947, where she sang Zdenka again in a production starring Maria Reining and Hans Hotter. After the premiere performance, Strauss himself commented, “The little Della Casa will one day be Arabella!” (“Die Kleine Della Casa wird eines Tages Arabella sein!”). That same year on 18 October, she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera House, singing the part of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Soon she moved to Vienna and joined the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera House. In 1949, she made her debut at La Scala in Milan as Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Victor de Sabata, the musical director of La Scala at that time, tried to persuade her to move to La Scala, but she chose to remain in Vienna.

Della Casa made her British debut singing the part of Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Glyndebourne Festival. She went on to sing the title role in Arabella for the first time, at the Bavarian State Opera House in Munich in 1951. It became her signature role. She sang Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival in 1952, in what proved to be her only appearance at Bayreuth.

In 1953, Della Casa sang Arabella in the Bavarian State Opera Company’s performances at Covent Garden, and sang the part of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier for the first time, at the Salzburg Festival. On 20 November 1953, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York (the Met) as the Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. Since her debut, she sang a total of 173 complete opera performances at the Met until her last performance there on December 9, 1967 as Countess Almaviva.

In 1955, she sang the part of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier for the first time; this was in a series of performances to celebrate the opening of the restored Vienna State Opera House. As a result, she had sung all three parts – the Marschallin, Octavian, Sophie – in Der Rosenkavalier as well as a single performance as Annina replacing an indisposed singer in Zurich. The Salzburg Festival was one of the most important venues in her career. She sang Ariadne in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1954, (once again) Donna Elvira in 1956, Chrysothemis in Strauss’s Elektra and Countess Almaviva in 1957 (she also gave a recital at the Festival in the same year which has been preserved as a recording) and Arabella in 1958.

Della Casa sang Pamina in The Magic Flute in 1959. On 26 July 1960, the newly built Salzburg Festspielhaus opened with a performance of Der Rosenkavalier under Herbert von Karajan. She sang the part of the Marschallin in this performance with Sena Jurinac as Octavian and Hilde Gueden as Sophie. Originally, Karajan and film director Paul Czinner planned to make a film of the performance; they asked Della Casa to sing the part of the Marschallin in the film too and she gladly accepted. But due to Walter Legge, well-known recording producer of EMI and husband of Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Della Casa was replaced by Schwarzkopf for the film (a reverse of the 1954 Salzburg Festival production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where Schwarzkopf sang in the performances, but was replaced by Della Casa for the film production). Shocked, although she sang the scheduled performances of the season (the Marschallin and Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, she would never sing there again. When asked several times subsequently to do so, she declined, replying: “No, sir, Salzburg für mich ist gestorben.” (“No, sir, for me, Salzburg is dead.”)

From this time onward, she took few dramatic parts in Italian operas, succeeding notably as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello and the title role in Puccini’s Tosca, but finally returned to lyric parts in Mozart and Richard Strauss operas. In 1964, when Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (now both her colleague and rival at the Vienna State Opera House) made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera of New York as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Della Casa sang Octavian. Anneliese Rothenberger and Rolf Gerard attested that, contrary to Bing’s and the public’s desire for scandal, no hard feelings between the two sopranos were apparent during this period. Gerard, who was working at the time with famous Met director Rudolf Bing, called the latter a “publicity genius”. Other significant roles were Cleopatra in Handel’s Julius Caesar, the Countess in Strauss’s Capriccio, Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, and the female roles in Gottfried von Einem’s Der Prozess.

Later career

Della Casa admitted she did not like the “music business”, with its intrigues and vanities.

She made several complete opera recordings mainly for the Decca label: her interpretations of Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (Erich Kleiber) and the title role in Arabella (by Sir Georg Solti) are regarded as among the finest recorded. She made the first commercial recording of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (Karl Böhm) in 1953 for Decca, and many classical music lovers claim this recording to be the greatest available. Her Elvira, sung to perhaps the greatest Don Giovanni of his time, Cesare Siepi, is available both on CD and DVD. She recorded a memorable Countess under the direction of Erich Leinsdorf at the Met, starring the American bass-baritone Giorgio Tozzi in the title role.

As an interpreter of lieder, she often performed with the German pianist Sebastian Peschko and Hungarian Arpad Sandor. She made several appearances in the acclaimed US television edition of the Bell Telephone Hour and appeared regularly on Swiss television, giving interviews and performances, as well as participating in game shows. In October 2007 and November 2008, Della Casa, members of her family and her colleagues agreed to be interviewed as part of a Liebe einer Diva (Loves of a Diva), a German documentary film by Thomas Voigt and Wolfgang Wunderlich about Della Casa’s life and career wunderlichmedien.com; accessed 1 July 2015. (in German)

The film was last shown on April 5, 2010 on Germany’s 3SAT and has ample footage of Della Casa’s career, as well as rare television footage.

Death

Della Casa died on December 10, 2012 in Münsterlingen, Switzerland. The Salzburg Festspielhaus flew a black flag on news of her death.

Lisa Della Casa (February 2, 1919 – December 10, 2012) was a Swiss soprano most admired for her interpretations of major heroines in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Richard Strauss, and of German lieder. She was also described as “the most beautiful woman on the operatic stage”.

Biography

Della Casa was born in Burgdorf, Switzerland to an Italian-Swiss father, Francesco Della Casa, and a Bavarian-born mother, Margarete Mueller. She began studying singing at the age of 15 at the Zurich Conservatory, and her teachers included Margarete Haeser.

She made her operatic debut in the title role of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at Solothurn-Biel Municipal Theater in 1940. She joined the ensemble of Zurich Municipal Opera House in 1943 (staying there until 1950) and sang various parts, from the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute to Dorabella in Così fan tutte. Later she sang Fiordiligi. She sang the part of Zdenka in the performance of Richard Strauss’s Arabella at Zurich Municipal Opera House alongside Maria Cebotari’s Arabella in 1946. Cebotari recognized her talent and introduced her at the Salzburg Festival in 1947, where she sang Zdenka again in a production starring Maria Reining and Hans Hotter. After the premiere performance, Strauss himself commented, “The little Della Casa will one day be Arabella!” (“Die Kleine Della Casa wird eines Tages Arabella sein!”). That same year on 18 October, she made her debut at the Vienna State Opera House, singing the part of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Soon she moved to Vienna and joined the ensemble of the Vienna State Opera House. In 1949, she made her debut at La Scala in Milan as Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier and Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Victor de Sabata, the musical director of La Scala at that time, tried to persuade her to move to La Scala, but she chose to remain in Vienna.

Della Casa made her British debut singing the part of Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at the Glyndebourne Festival. She went on to sing the title role in Arabella for the first time, at the Bavarian State Opera House in Munich in 1951. It became her signature role. She sang Eva in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Bayreuth Festival in 1952, in what proved to be her only appearance at Bayreuth.

In 1953, Della Casa sang Arabella in the Bavarian State Opera Company’s performances at Covent Garden, and sang the part of Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier for the first time, at the Salzburg Festival. On 20 November 1953, she made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York (the Met) as the Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro. Since her debut, she sang a total of 173 complete opera performances at the Met until her last performance there on December 9, 1967 as Countess Almaviva.

In 1955, she sang the part of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier for the first time; this was in a series of performances to celebrate the opening of the restored Vienna State Opera House. As a result, she had sung all three parts – the Marschallin, Octavian, Sophie – in Der Rosenkavalier as well as a single performance as Annina replacing an indisposed singer in Zurich. The Salzburg Festival was one of the most important venues in her career. She sang Ariadne in Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in 1954, (once again) Donna Elvira in 1956, Chrysothemis in Strauss’s Elektra and Countess Almaviva in 1957 (she also gave a recital at the Festival in the same year which has been preserved as a recording) and Arabella in 1958.

Della Casa sang Pamina in The Magic Flute in 1959. On 26 July 1960, the newly built Salzburg Festspielhaus opened with a performance of Der Rosenkavalier under Herbert von Karajan. She sang the part of the Marschallin in this performance with Sena Jurinac as Octavian and Hilde Gueden as Sophie. Originally, Karajan and film director Paul Czinner planned to make a film of the performance; they asked Della Casa to sing the part of the Marschallin in the film too and she gladly accepted. But due to Walter Legge, well-known recording producer of EMI and husband of Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Della Casa was replaced by Schwarzkopf for the film (a reverse of the 1954 Salzburg Festival production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, where Schwarzkopf sang in the performances, but was replaced by Della Casa for the film production). Shocked, although she sang the scheduled performances of the season (the Marschallin and Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, she would never sing there again. When asked several times subsequently to do so, she declined, replying: “No, sir, Salzburg für mich ist gestorben.” (“No, sir, for me, Salzburg is dead.”)

From this time onward, she took few dramatic parts in Italian operas, succeeding notably as Desdemona in Verdi’s Otello and the title role in Puccini’s Tosca, but finally returned to lyric parts in Mozart and Richard Strauss operas. In 1964, when Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (now both her colleague and rival at the Vienna State Opera House) made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera of New York as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, Della Casa sang Octavian. Anneliese Rothenberger and Rolf Gerard attested that, contrary to Bing’s and the public’s desire for scandal, no hard feelings between the two sopranos were apparent during this period. Gerard, who was working at the time with famous Met director Rudolf Bing, called the latter a “publicity genius”. Other significant roles were Cleopatra in Handel’s Julius Caesar, the Countess in Strauss’s Capriccio, Ilia in Mozart’s Idomeneo, and the female roles in Gottfried von Einem’s Der Prozess.

Later career

Della Casa admitted she did not like the “music business”, with its intrigues and vanities.

She made several complete opera recordings mainly for the Decca label: her interpretations of Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro (Erich Kleiber) and the title role in Arabella (by Sir Georg Solti) are regarded as among the finest recorded. She made the first commercial recording of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs (Karl Böhm) in 1953 for Decca, and many classical music lovers claim this recording to be the greatest available. Her Elvira, sung to perhaps the greatest Don Giovanni of his time, Cesare Siepi, is available both on CD and DVD. She recorded a memorable Countess under the direction of Erich Leinsdorf at the Met, starring the American bass-baritone Giorgio Tozzi in the title role.

As an interpreter of lieder, she often performed with the German pianist Sebastian Peschko and Hungarian Arpad Sandor. She made several appearances in the acclaimed US television edition of the Bell Telephone Hour and appeared regularly on Swiss television, giving interviews and performances, as well as participating in game shows. In October 2007 and November 2008, Della Casa, members of her family and her colleagues agreed to be interviewed as part of a Liebe einer Diva (Loves of a Diva), a German documentary film by Thomas Voigt and Wolfgang Wunderlich about Della Casa’s life and career wunderlichmedien.com; accessed 1 July 2015. (in German)

The film was last shown on April 5, 2010 on Germany’s 3SAT and has ample footage of Della Casa’s career, as well as rare television footage.

Death

Della Casa died on December 10, 2012 in Münsterlingen, Switzerland. The Salzburg Festspielhaus flew a black flag on news of her death.