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November, 16

Obituary: Edita Gruberova, celebrated opera singer

Obituary: Edita Gruberova, celebrated opera singer

Much loved coloratura soprano singer Edita Gruberova, who was affectionately known as the “Slovakian Nightingale”, has died aged 74.

Over the course of a long and distinguished career, the musician, who was born in what is now known as Slovakia, performed in some of the world’s most prestigious opera venues, including the Vienna State Opera House, the Royal Opera House in London, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the Bavarian State Opera and the Zurich Opera House.

Some of her most admired performances include works by Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti.

In 1979 Robert Jacobson, the then editor of Opera News, was full of praise for her performance in Ariadne, describing it as: “Everything one could hope for in this soaring, most demanding role, for she acts enchantingly, sings with great skill and musicality and possesses a voice that not only sails easily to the top, but is filled out with sweetness and quality; she had a triumph, predictably, not only in her big aria, but in the touching duet with the composer in the prologue as well.”

Gruberova was the only child of her German father Gustav Gruber and her Hungarian mother Etela Gruberova. Her father was a labourer, who spent five years in jail because he opposed communism. He also struggled with alcohol addiction. Her mother, who nurtured her musical gift, worked on a collective farm.

Speaking to the Vienna State Opera magazine in 2014, Gruberova spoke about how music was an integral part of her life, saying: “Singing has always been fun for me. It’s what I was born to do. I have always sung: at home with my mother, children’s songs at school, later, during my studies, small concerts, some of them in foreign countries that we coveted so much. Singing is simply my life.”

Gruberova studied at the Bratislava Conservatory, after encouragement from her church pastor Julius Janko. At one point, she performed in the musical My Fair Lady as Eliza Doolittle.

Around the time of the Prague Spring in 1968, Maria Medvecka, a teacher at the conservatory, secretly arranged an audition for Gruberova with the Vienna State Opera. Gruberova was unsuccessful though, so instead she made her debut as Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in her native Bratislava.

But all was not lost. Coming third in a French singing competition opened her up to a wider audience, and in 1970 she landed a two-year contract with the Vienna State Opera where she started by playing Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

In 1993, Gruberova created her own record label called Nightingale Classics. Her last ever opera performance took place in March 2019 with the Bavarian State Opera.

The singer is survived by two daughters from her marriage to the late composer Stefan Klimo, and three grandchildren.

Edita Gruberova, opera singer, born 23 December 1946, died 18 October 2021


Photo: provided by The i
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