Lucia Popp (born Lucia Poppová; 12 November 1939 – 16 November 1993) was a Slovak operatic soprano. She began her career as a soubrette soprano, and later moved into the light-lyric and lyric coloratura soprano repertoire and then the lighter Richard Strauss and Wagner operas. Her career included performances at Vienna State Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, Covent Garden, and La Scala. Popp was also a highly regarded recitalist and lieder singer.
Life and career
Popp initially entered the Bratislava Academy to study drama. While she began her vocal lessons during this period as a mezzo-soprano, her voice developed a high upper register to the degree that her professional debut was as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute in Bratislava, a role she revived in a 1963 recording conducted by Otto Klemperer. In 1963, Herbert von Karajan invited her to join the Vienna State Opera, where she debuted as Barbarina in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro. Popp had strong ties to the Vienna State Opera throughout her career, and in 1979 was named an Austrian "Kammersängerin". She made her Covent Garden debut in 1966 as Oscar in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1967 as the Queen of the Night (production designed by Marc Chagall).
During the 1970s, Popp turned from coloratura roles to lyric ones. Then, in the 1980s, she added heavier roles to her repertoire, such as Elsa in Wagner's Lohengrin and Eva in the same composer's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. As a result of this vocal progression, Popp sang various roles in the same opera at different stages in her career, including Zdenka and Arabella in Richard Strauss's Arabella; Susanna and the Countess in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro; Queen of the Night and Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute; Zerlina, Donna Elvira, and later Donna Anna in Mozart's Don Giovanni; Adele and Rosalinde in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus; Annchen and Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz; and Sophie and the Marschallin in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.
Twice married, Popp died of brain cancer in 1993 in Munich, Germany, at the age of 54. She was buried in Cintorín Slávičie údolie, Bratislava. Her second husband, noted German tenor, Peter Seiffert, survives her. In March 2007, on BBC Music magazine's list of the "20 All-time Best Sopranos" based on a poll of 21 British music critics and BBC presenters, Lucia Popp placed seventh.
She rarely recorded roles she did not perform on stage (with a few exceptions, including Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser and the title role in Richard Strauss's Daphne) The following is a selection of her recordings:
- Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (as Susanna), with Te Kanawa, von Stade, Allen, Ramey, Moll, and Solti (Decca)
- Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro (as Countess Almaviva), with van Dam, Hendricks, Raimondi, Baltsa, and Marriner (Philips)
- Mozart: Don Giovanni (as Zerlina), with Weikl, Sass, M. Price, T. Krause, Solti (Decca)
- Mozart: The Magic Flute (as Queen of the Night), with Janowitz, Berry, Gedda, Frick, and Klemperer (EMI)
- Mozart: The Magic Flute (as Pamina), with Jerusalem, Brendel, Zednik, Gruberova and Haitink (EMI)
- Mozart: Idomeneo (as Ilia), with Pavarotti, Baltsa, Nucci, Gruberova, and Pritchard (Decca)
- Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail (as Blonde), with Gedda, Rothenberger, Frick, Unger, and Krips (EMI)
- Mozart: La clemenza di Tito (as Vitellia for Harnoncourt, Teldec; and Servilia for Kertész (Decca) and Davis (Philips)
- Mozart: Il sogno di Scipione (as Costanza), with Gruberová, Schreier, Mathis and Hager (Decca)
- Orff: Carmina Burana with Unger, Wolansky, Noble, and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (EMI)
- R. Strauss: Intermezzo (as Christine), with Dallapozza, Fischer-Dieskau, Finke and Sawallisch (EMI)
- R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (as Sophie), with Domingo, Ludwig, G. Jones, Berry and Bernstein (Sony)
- R. Strauss: Daphne (as Daphne), with Goldberg, Schreier, Wenkel, Moll and Haitink (EMI)
- J. Strauss II: Die Fledermaus (as Adele), with Várady, Weikl, Kollo, Prey and C. Kleiber (DG)
- J. Strauss II: Die Fledermaus (as Rosalinde), with Lind, Baltsa, Seiffert, Brendel, Rydl and Domingo (EMI)
- Beethoven: Fidelio (as Marzelline), with Janowitz, Kollo, Sotin, Fischer-Dieskau, Jungwirth and Bernstein (DG)
- Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel (as Gretel), with Schlemm, Fassbaender, Gruberová, Hamari, Burrowes, Berry and Solti (Decca)
- Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel (as the Dew Fairy), with Moffo, Donath, Ludwig, Fischer-Dieskau, Berthold, Auger and Eichhorn (RCA)
- Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice (as Euridice), with Lipovsek, Kaufmann, and Hager (RCA)
- Verdi: Rigoletto (as Gilda), with Weikl, Aragall, and Gardelli (RCA)
- Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci (as Nedda), with Atlantow, Weikl, and Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by Lamberto Gardelli (RCA)
- Leoncavallo: La bohème (as Mimi), with Bonisolli, Weikl, Titus, Miltcheva, and Wallberg (Orfeo)
- Puccini: Suor Angelica (as Angelica), with Lipovsek, Schiml, and Patané (RCA)
- Puccini: La bohème (as Mimi), with Francisco Araiza, Barbara Daniels, Wolfgang Brendel, and Münchner Rundfunkorchester conducted by Stefan Soltesz (EMI) (sung in German)
- Donizetti: L'elisir d'amore (as Adina), with Dvorsky, Weikl, Nesterenko, and Wallberg (RCA)
- Donizetti: Don Pasquale (as Norina), with Araiza, Weikl, Nesterenko, and Wallberg (RCA)
- Flotow: Martha (title role), with Jerusalem, Soffel, Ridderbusch, Nimsgern, and Wallberg (RCA)
- Janáček: The Cunning Little Vixen (as the Vixen), with Randova, Jedlicka, Blachut and Mackerras (Decca)
- Janáček: Jenůfa (as Karolka), with Söderström, Dvorsky, Randova, Ochman, and Mackerras (Decca)
- Lehár: Der Graf von Luxemburg (as Angèle), with Gedda, Böhme, Holm, and Mattes (EMI).
- Wagner: Tannhäuser (as Elisabeth), with König, Moll, W. Meier, and Haitink (EMI).
- Bizet: Djamileh (as Djamileh), with Bonisolli, Lafont, Pineau, and Gardelli (ORFEO)
She also sang Lieder. Hyperion's Schubert Edition contains an album from her (Volume 17), one of her last recordings. She recorded Richard Strauss's Four Last Songs three times (with Tennstedt for EMI, Solti for Decca and Tilson Thomas for Sony, the one with Tilson Thomas being also her last recording), Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn twice (with Weikl, Tennstedt for EMI, and Schmidt, Bernstein for DG). EMI also reissued two of her albums as part of the company's 'Red Line' series (Slavonic Arias and Viennese Operetta Arias). Orfeo also has issued several of Popp's live recordings. She also recorded the soprano solo of Handel's Messiah for EMI under the baton of Sir Neville Marriner (sung in German).
She can be seen in the role of Pamina in a performance of The Magic Flute, recorded live at the Bayerische Staatsoper in 1983, and published by Philips, catalogue number 070 505-3. Also, in Smetana's The Bartered Bride as Marie (the female lead). Recorded in 1982 in Vienna, published by Deutsche Grammophon Catalogue number 00440 073 4360, and in Die Fledermaus as Rosalinda (TDK). Also in Orff's Carmina Burana as the female lead in the Court of Love. Recorded in 1975, published by BMG Ariola catalogue number 74321 85285 9. Also as Marzelline in 1968 Fidelio with the Hamburg State Opera.
She was Sophie in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier DG 00440 073 4072 Carlos Kleiber conductor, Bayerisches Staatsorchester; Otto Schenk director, recorded 1979. There is a recording of Lucia Popp soloing in Strauss' Four Last Songs with Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony. In 1993 she was the soprano soloist in Antonín Dvořák's Requiem with the Prague Symphony Orchestra conducted by Petr Altrichter on Arthaus music DVD 102145.
- YouTube has a selection of her singing famous excerpts.
- Aria in the opera Undine (Lorzing) sung by soprano Lucia Popp on YouTube
- Seventy-fifth birthday tribute on From the Archives