Obituary: Legendary Soprano Edita Gruberová Dies at 74

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Courtesy of the Bayerische Staatsoper)

Slovak-born coloratura soprano Edita Gruberová has died at the age of 74 on Oct. 18, 2021, in Zurich.

According to Hilbert Artists Management, the soprano died of an accidental head injury.

Born in Rača, Bratislava on Dec. 23, 1946, Gruberová began her musical studies at the Bratislava Conservatory and studied under Mária Medvecká. She would continue her studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava and became a singer of the Lúčnica folk ensemble and appeared several times in the Slovak National Theatre.

In 1968 she made her operatic debut in Bratislava as Rosina in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia.” Following her debut, she won a competition in Toulouse and went on to sing as a soloist of the opera ensemble of the J. G. Tajovský Theatre in Banská Bystrica, Slovakia.

In 1970 she made her Wiener Staatsoper debut and broke out with her famed Queen of the Night in “The Magic Flute.” She became a soloist for Vienna and a permanent resident of the west.

Having conquered the Viennese public, the soprano was invited to sing in Glyndebourne in 1973 as the Queen of the Night and achieved international recognition in 1976 when she sang Zerbinetta in the premiere of a new production of “Ariadne auf Naxos.”

In 1977 she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as the Queen of the Night and returned as “Lucia di Lammermoor” and Elvira in “I Puritani.” That same year she made her Salzburg Festival debut under Herbert von Karajan.

The soprano would go on to sing at the Teatro alla Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, and Opernhaus Zurich, among many others.

In 2001, Gruberová withdrew from all her performances at the Zürich Opera, after Alexander Pereira, then intendant of the company refused to claim responsibility for her dancer daughter’s injury, which ruined her career. She would return to the house in 2012 replacing Jonas Kaufmann in a recital and after Pereira’s departure, she finally performed in a staged opera in a revival of “Roberto Devereux.”

On March 27, 2019, she performed her final staged opera performance as Elizabeth I in “Roberto Devereux” at the Bayerische Staatsoper. She would focus on concert performances and masterclasses and officially retired from the stage in September 2020, in part due to delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her last official performance took place at Gersthofen on Dec. 20, 2019 as the two planned farewell performances in semi-staged Roberto Devereux at the State Theatre Košice at the end of November 2020 were eventually canceled due to the pandemic.

Gruberová was an Austrian and Bavarian Kammersängerin and an honorary member of the Wiener Staatsoper.

Her repertoire was varied as she sang works by Mozart, Gluck, Humperdinck, Verdi, Strauss, and Massenet. However, she was most notable for her Bel Canto roles, especially Donizetti’s Tudor Queens trilogy.

The soprano left numerous recordings including a film of “Rigoletto” with Pavarotti, “Lucia di Lammermoor,” the Three Queen Trilogy, “Lucrezia Borgia,” “La Straniera,” “Norma,” “Linda di Chamonix,” “Semiramide,” “Il Barbiere di Siviglia,” and “la Traviata,” among others.