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'In My Own Voice: Memoirs by Christa Ludwig' Translated with reference material by Regina Domeraski

Opera stars share their life stories

Sunday, March 19, 2000

By Robert Croan, Post-Gazette Senior Editor


In My Own Voice: Memoirs by Christa Ludwig

By Translated with reference material by Regina Domeraski

Limelight Editions


Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the memoirs of Christa Ludwig, one of this century’s most beloved opera and concert singers, is a section devoted to her recollections of conductor Lorin Maazel.

Pittsburgers -- indeed, most musicians -- regard Maazel as an infallible technician who may lack heart at times but who rarely makes a musical mistake.

Instead, the German-born mezzo-soprano narrates a story about Maazel conducting Beethoven’s “Fidelio” at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper in 1966:

“Maazel always conducted without a score because he had a prodigious memory. ... Hans Beirer, who sang Florestan, made a mistake, the orchestra was right, but the whole chorus made the same mistake as Beirer. The orchestra and singers went in separate directions, and Maazel had to stop the performance. The audience was furious and booed.”

The next time he conducted in Berlin, Maazel hired the star mezzo to sing the title role. “Everything went wonderfully, and Maazel had an enormous success,” Ludwig writes. But she follows with an unfavorable newspaper account.

This is typical. No one seems immune from Ludwig’s candor, although she tends to be more kind than unkind to her colleagues.

Ludwig, 71, promises to tell her story from A to Z, and she begins with her childhood years. Then she moves into a disorganized series of topics -- among them, the halls she performed in, her roles, stage directors and conductors she has known, the men in her life and thoughts on aging.

All of this is fascinating, especially for the opera buff, but it’s more than a little confusing in this format.

Ludwig is an artist who won her public by a direct kind of communication that masked her technical and intellectual accomplishments. This book, despite its flaws, does much the same thing.

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