OPERA NEWS - Hilde Zadek, 101, Post-War Vienna State Opera Mainstay, has Died
From Development server
23 February 2019

Hilde Zadek, 101, Post-War Vienna State Opera Mainstay, has Died


HILDE ZADEK was an artist whose extraordinary career was shaped by the political and social tumult that engulfed Europe in the 1930s. The soprano was born in Bromberg, a city in the Prussian province of Posen that was assigned to Poland by the 1919 Versailles Treaty. When she was a child, Zadek’s family left Poland for the German city of Stettin; in 1935, determined to escape the anti-Jewish atmosphere in Germany, Zadek emigrated to Haifa, in what was then Manadatory Palestine. In Jerusalem, Zadek worked as a nurse and studied voice and music with other emigrés from Europe, including German composer Josef Tal and Hungarian soprano Rosa Pauly. Determined to make a career in opera, Zadek moved to Switzerland, where she worked as an au pair and studied with Ria Ginster at the Zurich Conservatory.

On February 3, 1947, at the age of twenty-nine, Zadek made her Vienna State Opera debut as Aida at the Theater an der Wien. She was terrified: it was her first opera performance anywhere and the Vienna audience was packed with would-be demonstrators who planned to disrupt her performance because she was Jewish. There was no demonstration: Zadek’s deeply musical, passionate Aida was a personal and professional triumph that began a love affair with the Viennese public that continued until her retirement from singing, in 1971, and beyond. Zadek sang 786 Staatsoper performances of thirty-nine different roles, including Aida, Countess Almaviva, the Marschallin, Donna Anna, Ariadne and Eva in Die Meistersinger, among others. Although she sang at other international houses—including Covent Garden, Glyndebourne, Bavarian State Opera and Salzburg, where she was Eurydice in the 1949 world premiere of Carl Orff’s Antigonae—Zadek’s artistic home would always be Vienna, where she was recognized as a Kammersängerin (1951) and an honorary member of the Vienna State Opera (1977). Zadek made very few North American appearances; the Met presented her just eight times, all during the 1952–53 season. Beginning in 1967, Zadek mentored and inspired new generations of artists as a voice teacher at the Vienna Academy. Since 2003, the Hildegard Zadek Foundation has sponsored the biennial International Hilde Zadek Voice Competition; the 2019 edition takes place in April.

Zadek’s recordings include the Verdi Requiem with Herbert von Karajan (1949); Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos with Thomas Beecham (1950); Donna Anna with Rudolf Moralt (1955); the title role in Iphigénie en Tauride under Joseph Keilberth (1956); First Chorus in Pizzetti’s Murder in the Cathedral with Karajan (1960); Madame Lidoine in Dialogues des Carmélites with Berislav Klobucar (1961) and Chrysothemis in Elektra with Arnold Quennet (1964). 

Zadek was survived by her spouse, American soprano and teacher Maria Venuti. — F. Paul Driscoll 

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