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Gundula Janowitz (born August 2, 1937 in Berlinmarker, Germanymarker) is an Austrianmarker lyric soprano singer of operas, oratorios and concerts. She is one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th Century and was pre-eminent in the 1960s and 1970s.


Gundula Janowitz studied at the Graz Conservatory in Austria, and had already begun to sing at the highest level by the end of the 1950s (Die Schöpfung, with Herbert von Karajan in 1960). In 1959, Karajan engaged her as "Barbarina" in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) at the Vienna State Operamarker, of which she became a permanent member in 1962. In the 1960s and 1970s, she became one of the most popular singers in her field internationally and she developed a comprehensive and widely-followed discography of works ranging from Johann Sebastian Bach to Richard Strauss, in cooperation with the most prominent conductors (her mentor at times, Karajan, as well as Otto Klemperer, Eugen Jochum, Leonard Bernstein, Rafael Kubelik, Karl Böhm, Georg Solti, Carlos Kleiber, etc.)

One of the emphases of Janowitz's work was the development of song recitals, such as several at the Salzburg Festivals (Salzburger Festspielen). Following her vocal career, she was active as a vocal teacher. In 1990, she temporarily took over the position of Opera Director in Grazmarker, Austria.

In 1978, Gundula Janowitz was awarded the Joseph Marx Music Prize of the state of Styriamarker, Austria, named for the composer, Joseph Marx.

Gundula Janowitz appeared on many of the great stages of the world, for example, regularly at the Salzburg Easter Festivals (Salzburger Osterfestpielen). In 1973, she sang the part of the Countess in a now legendary new production of Le nozze di Figaro (with Georg Solti as conductor, Giorgio Strehler as director and Ezio Frigerio as set designer).

Her farewell premier was at the Vienna State Opera in the title role of Christoph Willibald Gluck's Iphigénie en Aulide (Iphigeneia in Aulis) (with Charles Mackerras as conductor, Claus Helmut Drese as director, and Hans Schavernoch as set designer). Gundula Janowitz made her official farewell from the stage in 1990.

Voice and Repertory

Gundula Janowitz's voice is distinguished by its very bright, pure, crystalline, tremolo-free sound with tight, rapid vibrato, and by her even breathing technique. She kept her youthful, angelic tone and freshness well into her mature years. Like her predecessors, Elisabeth Grümmer and Maria Stader, who had similar timbre to hers, and like her contemporary, Elizabeth Harwood, Janowitz mastered first and foremost the high and middle register and lyrical-emotional expression. Despite her comparatively weak sound projection, she occasionally attempted dramatic roles (Sieglinde, Leonore, Elsa) or comic roles (Marzelline, Rosalinde), but she was most highly regarded as Fiordiligi, Countess Almaviva, Pamina, Agathe, Arabella, Ariadne, the Angel Gabriel (Die Schopfung), and Countess Madeleine, and in sacred music. She was also a leading interpreter of Richard Strauss "Vier letzte Lieder". With a few exceptions, she avoided foreign-language roles (although recordings exist of her singing Don Carlos and the Verdi Requiem and all three Mozart/DaPonte operas in Italian).

An excerpt of her portrayal of the Figaro Countess in a duet with Swiss soprano Edith Mathis features prominently in the 1994 critically acclaimed film, The Shawshank Redemption.

Selected Discography


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