Friday, December 2, 2011

For Sena Jurinac (1921-2011)

Not quite soprano, not quite mezzo, not quite lyric, not quite spinto, but possessing a vocal technique so astounding that she easily sang the most difficult roles of each fach, Sena Jurinac was Croatian by birth, but for opera lovers everywhere, her name was synonymous with Vienna. In her early years, she was mentored by Anna von Mildenburg, better known to some as the favorite mezzo (and possible mistress) of the young Gustav Mahler. After World War II, she became one of the favored singers of postwar Vienna and London, and became a favorite collaborator of Herbert von Karajan's.

Encouraged by Karajan, she became one of the first German-trained singers who learned to be nearly as proficient singing Italian. Unlike some others of her generation, her performances in Italian could challenge the very best Italian singers. But unlike many German-born singers, she was a natural polyglot, Her mother was Viennese, but her father was Croatian, and in Zagreb between the wars she surely had to learn a number of other languages. Her tone always had a slightly sharper edge to it that's associated more with Slavic singers than German speakers.

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