The wide-ranging repertory in which Christa Ludwig appeared at the Vienna State Opera, spoiling her audiences and often surprising them over a period of many years, is central to the present set of three CDs issued to mark her eightieth birthday. It begins with her Cherubino from Le nozze di Figaro and her Composer from Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos, both of which she sang at the Salzburg Festival soon after her Vienna State Opera début in 1955. Another of her early roles in Vienna was Dorabella in Così fan tutte, while Angelina in Rossini’s La Cenerentola was a lyric mezzo-soprano part that she sang only infrequently but to which she brought a stupendous coloratura technique. Her increasingly dramatic roles are represented by excerpts from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Berg’s Wozzeck, Wagner’s Tannhäuser and Lohengrin and Verdi’s Macbeth, which also demonstrate the astute use of her resources in those roles that extend well into the soprano register. It was very much Christa Ludwig’s ability to cover the whole dynamic range from the most delicate pianissimo to the greatest fortissimo outburst that allowed her to encompass the most dramatic passages without forfeiting any of her intensity, causing audiences to break into spontaneous applause even in a through-composed work like Lohengrin. Under Leonard Bernstein’s conducting, the subdued melancholy of her Marschallin is even more overwhelming in the present live recording than it was in the studio. No less impressive is the way in which Christa Ludwig was able to forge a successful working relationship with each of the very different conductors with whom she appeared, be it Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, Lorin Maazel, Claudio Abbado or the conductor of the most recent New Year’s Day Concert from Vienna, Georges Prêtre. That her distinct timbre never suffered from the pressures that were placed on her voice was repeatedly confirmed and, indeed, encouraged by her regular return to the mezzo-soprano repertory. New productions were not always planned around her, as they were with her Dido in Berlioz’s Les Troyens and her assumption of the title role in Gottfried von Einem’s Der Besuch der alten Dame, a work based on a libretto that Friedrich Dürrenmatt adapted from his own stage play of the same name, with its central role written specially with Ludwig in mind. Throughout her career, she retained a company spirit and never thought it beneath her to appear in smaller roles such as Clairon in Strauss’s Capriccio, Federica in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Erda in Das Rheingold and, towards the end of her career, in character parts, including the Old Countess in Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande and, above all, Klytämnestra in Elektra, the role in which she bade farewell to the stage in 1994. This final appearance – almost forty years after her Viennese début – also brings to an end our musical tribute to Christa Ludwig, recalling an altogether exceptional career by this honorary member of the Vienna State Opera.