Edita GruberováGuest of the Opera
Edita Gruberová was celebrated by the press as „prima donna assoluta, coloratura phenomenon, Queen of the bel canto“. She was born in Bratislava, where she debuted at the Slovak National Theatre as Rosina in Il barbiere di Siviglia in 1968. In 1970 she was hired by the Vienna State Opera, where she debuted as the Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte, which was followed by the roles of Olympia, Antonia and Giulietta in Les contes d´Hoffmann.The political situation in Czechoslovakia made it increasingly more difficult for her to travel outside the country, and so she decided to emigrate in 1971 and re-settled in Vienna. Edita Gruberová’s big break came with the role of Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos and, in particular, after her meeting with conductor Karl Böhm and singing teacher Ruthild Boesch, both of whom played a decisive role in her future professional career. It was also as Zerbinetta that she subsequently succeeded in breaking through the time´s political barriers. In April 1979, Prague received a visit, for the first time since the era of the New German Theatre, by the complete ensemble of the Vienna State Opera, to present on the same premises as then, by now renamed to Smetana Theatre, its production of Ariadne auf Naxos (on April 25 and 27). The Czech side was then reluctant to welcome Gruberová to the country, as she had previously left it for a self-imposed exile, but the Vienna company would not yield, preferring to retain its first-class Zerbinetta on the cast to making the visit to Prague happen at any cost, and set her presence as a conditio sine qua non. Eventually Gruberová was let in. Of course the audiences, familiar with the situation, rewarded Gruberová with thunderous ovations.
The reputation of the “Slovak nightingale” quickly spread, and Edita Gruberová began to receive offers to appear in the leading opera houses of Europe. She sang the Queen of the Night at the Salzburg Festival in 1974, and in 1977 she debuted with the same role at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. She began as a coloratura soprano, a role she performed with supreme mastery; she then gradually began to concentrate on both lyrical and dramatic bel canto roles, in particular, in Bellini’s and in Donizetti’s operas, and also Mozart’s Donna Anna, Queen of the Night and Konstanze, Rossini’s Rosina, the title role in Massenet’s Manon, R. Strauss’ Aminta and The “Fiakermilli” and J. Strauss’ Adele (Die Fledermaus). She eventually took on other Verdi roles (Violetta, Gilda).
She had to her credit an extensive discography (including complete opera sets, albums of arias, and song recitals) released by major labels: Deutsche Grammophon, Decca, EMI, Nightingale Classics, and Teldec. Edita Gruberová participated in the making of several important opera films: Hänsel und Gretel, Rigoletto, Arabella, Così fan tutte and Ariadne auf Naxos.
Concert songs were a major part of Edita Gruberová’s artistic profile; she performed this genre regularly, convinced that song interpretation is, among other things, from the point of view of technique and expression, an essential prerequisite for first-rate opera performance. In clear recognition of her accomplishments, Edita Gruberová was given the title “Kammersängerin” by the Vienna State Opera, of which she is now an Honorary Member. She performed in the Czech Republic several times after 1990, last time in 2018 in the title role of Bellini's Norma (in autumn 2016, she toured Japan with the State Opera ensemble, performing the same role). Edita Gruberová died at the age of 74 on October 18, 2021 in Zurich.
Photo Lukas Beck