Tag Archives: Christa Ludwig

Christa Ludwig’s legacy

Christa Ludwig has been called “the Earth Mother of all singers”, and the designation is fitting in every possible way—the arresting beauty of the sound itself, the reassuring strength of her technique, and the intense expressiveness of her singing, wed to a disarming simplicity and directness that sets her apart from some of her famous contemporaries. That lack of pretentiousness is a hallmark of her offstage personality as well, for which she is adored by fans and colleagues alike.

As a teacher, Ludwig sets exactly the right tone by asserting herself firmly as the person in charge, yet with an inviting warmth and charm. She is not shy about bestowing compliments when warranted, but she is an exacting teacher, not reluctant to cut off a singer after two or three notes to correct an errant rendition.

In short, Christa Ludwig is everything that a professional singer should be, and the fact that she was able to sing for so long with such excellence is perhaps the highest tribute of all.

This according to “The listener’s gallery” by Gregory Berg (Journal of singing LXV/1 [September–October 2008] pp. 119–24).

Today is Ludwig’s 90th birthday! Above, in 2015; below, singing Mahler’s Urlicht.

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Wagner and Buddhism

Scholars have long known that Wagner had a deep and lasting interest in Buddhism; less known are the specific insights garnered from Buddhism that are manifested in Parsifal. The key to understanding this connection is the enigmatic figure of Kundry.

Contrary to the common interpretation of Kundry as the incarnation of the will, and in light of Wagner’s admiration for Schopenhauer, she may be seen as the personification of desire. Desiring, which is different from wanting, is a fundamental aspect of Buddhism. As Buddha explained in his very first sermon, desire is the cause of suffering (dukkha). Buddhist teaching holds that suffering can only be overcome when desire is vanquished.

Kundry appears in three forms in Parsifal; these correspond to the three forms of desire in Buddhism. This interpretation aligns the work’s Christian, pagan, and Buddhist symbolism as an expression of the inner way that is shared by all who tread the path of religious mysticism.

This according to “Kundry: The personification of the role of desire in the holy life” by Cittasamvaro (Phra Pandit) (Wagnerspectrum III/2 [2007] pp. 97–114). Above, Christa Ludwig as Kundry; below, Jordanka Derilova in the role.

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