Fifty-five Years in Five Acts: My Life in Opera

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UPNE, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 363 pages
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For Astrid Varnay, opera was the family business. The daughter of coloratura soprano Mária Jávor and dramatic tenor Alexander Várnay, she literally grew up backstage at the opera. Vocally and musically trained by her mother and mentor (and later husband) Hermann Weigert, she was just twenty-three years old when she made her unofficial debut at the Metropolitan Opera as a last-minute replacement for the suddenly ill Lotte Lehmann. Varnay's critically acclaimed performance as Sieglinde in Die Walküre catapulted her into the limelight.

Varnay reflects on her remarkable life in opera, discussing her signature roles and performances, vocal preparation and technique, interpretive acting style, and her seamless transition from leading soprano to character roles, including her switch from Elektra to Klytemnästra in Strauss's Elektra.

Her engaging and witty memoir is filled with frank, often critical, observations about many of the most significant vocal artists, conductors, and directors of the twentieth century. She describes her lifelong friendship with operatic idol Kirsten Flagstad, the years at the Met and conflicts with Rudolf Bing, her appearances at the Bayreuth and Salzburg Festivals, and her artistic rift with Herbert von Karajan.
 

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55 YEARS IN 5 ACTS

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In 1941, Varnay made a storybook Metropolitan Opera debut at 23, filling in for an indisposed Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in Die Walk re. Primarily remembered for dramatically compelling performances ... Read full review

Contents

THE FAMILY BUSINESS
19
A Nation Reborn
33
Amonasros Arrogance
57
The Story behind the Story 76
82
Alliances
104
The Father of TwentiethCentury Opera
118
Perils and Problems
131
Going International
152
Three Brunnhildes No Waiting
218
The Spice of Life
232
THE SECOND CAREER
247
Loved Her Hated Her
261
A Tray Full of Tradition
276
Off My Beaten Track
292
Silencing the I leavy Artillery
309
Growing Pains
325

Art Is What Matters Here
167
BRANCHING
189
Keeping the Drama Alive
205
Some Practieal Precepts in Parting
341
INDF X
354
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