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Coloratura Soprano

Erika Köth, German coloratura soprano

By November 1, 2023No Comments

Erika Köth was a famous German soprano of the post-war period.   You should listen for accuracy, pitch, interpretation, and the sheer beauty of the voice.  She has high notes, and she is never pushed or shrill.  I don’t say this very often, but we have today no exemplars of this quality of voice; in fact one can remark the difference in quality with respect to many of the singers who were singing in the 1950s.  The question is “why”, and, unfortunately the answer is not simple.

Köth was especially well known for her Mozart roles and for Richard Strauss’s lighter roles. Her voice was described by one critic as “exquisitely beautiful with an especially luminous top.” In addition to opera, she also sang coloratura waltzes and chansons.

Mozart, Le Nozze di Figaro, “Un moto di gioa”

Un moto di gioia
Mi sento nel petto,
Che annunzia diletto
In mezzo il timor!

Speriam che in contento
Finisca l’affanno
Non sempre è tiranno
Il fato ed amor.

Mozart, The Marriage of Figaro, “An emotion of joy”

An emotion of joy
I feel in my heart,
that says happiness is coming
in spite of my fears!

Let us hope that the worry
will end in contentment.
Fate and love are
not always tyrants.

Mozart, Così fan tutte, “Una donna a quindici anni”

Schon ein Mädchen von fünfzehn Jahren
Muss die grosse Kunst verstehen,
Wie am besten wir Nasen drehen,
Wie man Männer gängelt am Band.

Lernen all’ die Schelmereien,
Die ins Netz die Herrchen jagen,
Falsches Lachen, falsches Klagen,
Und die Tränen stets bei der Hand.

Tut man mit zwanzig auch spröde und verwundert,
Wechselt man Blicke feurig mit hundert.
Hier Hoffnung machen,
Dort sie verlachen,
Mit jenem necken sich,
Vor dem verstecken sich,
Ohne zu zagen
Unwahrheit sagen.
So ist man Fürstin auf hohem Throne,
Und in Gehorsam beugt man sich uns.
Wünschen vielleicht Sie weit’re Belehrung,
Stehet Despina gern zu Gebot.

Geht ab.

Mozart, Women are like that, “At fifteen a woman”

At fifteen a woman
Should know the ways of the world,
Where the devil keeps his tail,
What’s right and what is wrong.

She should know the wiles
That ensnare lovers,
How to feign laughter or tears
And to make up good excuses.

At one and the same moment
She must listen to a hundred
But speak with her eyes
To a thousand,
Hold out hope to all,
Be they handsome or plain,
Know how to hide things
Without getting flustered,
Know how to tell lies
Without ever blushing.
And, like a queen
On her lofty throne,
Get her own way
With “I can“ and “I will“
It seems they’re taking
To this doctrine;
Hooray for Despina,
She knows how to do it.


Mozart, Così fan tutte, “Una donna a quindici anni”

Una donna a quindici anni
Dèe saper ogni gran moda,
Dove il diavolo ha la coda,
Cosa è bene e mal cos’è.

Dèe saper le maliziette
Che innamorano gli amanti,
Finger riso, finger pianti,
Inventar i bei perché.

Dèe in un momento
Dar retta a cento;
Colle pupille
Parlar con mille;
Dar speme a tutti,
Sien belli o brutti;
Saper nascondersi
Senza confondersi;
Senza arrossire
Saper mentire;
E, qual regina
Dall’alto soglio,
Col «posso e voglio»
Farsi ubbidir.
fra sé
Par ch’abbian gusto
Di tal dottrina.
Viva Despina
Che sa servir!


Mozart, Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384, Act I: Ach ich liebte, war so glücklich

Ach, ich liebte,
War so glücklich,
Kannte nicht der Liebe Schmerz!
Schwur ihm Treue
Dem Geliebten,
Gab dahin mein ganzes Herz:

Doch wie bald schwand meine Freude,
Trennung war mein banges Loos;
Und nun schwimmt mein Aug’ in Tränen,
Kummer ruht in meinem Schoos.

Mozart, The Abduction from the Seraglio, “Alas, I loved”

Alas, I loved,
I was so happy;
I knew nothing of love’s pain.
Promised to be true
To my beloved,
And I gave him all my heart.

But how quickly my joy deserted me,
Separation was my unhappy fate.
And now my eyes are bathed in tears,
Grief resides in my breast

Erika Köth

September 15, 1927 – February 29, 1989

The German singer, Erika Köth, was a coloratura soprano famous for her singing of Mozart roles, especially T\the Queen of the Night and Constanze. She was also renowned for her interpretations of the lighter roles of Richard Strauss and was an accomplished performer of the operettas of Nicolai, Lortzing, Stolz, J. Strauss and Lehar. She also sang lighter roles from the Italian repertory, such as Gilda, Mimi and Musetta, and was a fine Lieder singer.

Köth studied singing at the Darmstadt College of Music with Elsa Blank. In 1947 she won a singing competition organised by the Hessian Radio.

Köth made her debut in 1948 at the Pfalztheater of Kaiserslautern as Philine in Thomas’s Mignon. From 1950 to 1953 Köth was engaged at the National Theatre of Karlsruhe. In 1953 she joined the Munich State Opera, where she was to remain a member until 1978. Through her engagements in Munich, she was contractually connected to the state operas of Vienna and Hamburg. She sang the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute at the Vienna State Opera in 1953 and performed the same role at La Scala in 1956. She became a member of the German Opera in Berlin in 1961. She performed in opera and concerts at the Salzburg Festivals of 1955-1957, 1958-1960 and 1962-1963 and was heard at the Bayreuth Festival singing the role of the Wood Bird in Wagner’s Siegfried. She also enjoyed success at the opera houses at Covent Garden, Rome, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Budapest in several operatic roles by Richard Strauss. Her other interpretations included Lucia di Lammermoor and Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohéme. Her final operatic performance was as as Mimi in Munich in 1978.