If opera enthusiasts had to choose a singer as the quintessential coloratura soprano, the name of Edita Gruberova would be bound to come up. To the delight of her audiences, she has spent the last four decades exploring every corner of the coloratura repertory. The fact that throughout this period she has retained her timbre, vocal flexibility and an upper range extending above top c'' is due above all to two factors: her sovereign technique and her intelligent choice of repertory. After making her professional début with a provincial company in her native Slovakia, she soon joined the Vienna State Opera, which remains her artistic home to this day.
Edita Gruberova als Manon
Foto: FayerAs the new compilation of high points from her career in Vienna that Orfeo is releasing as part of its Wiener Staatsoper Live series, her earliest decisive successes were in the sort of lighter coloratura roles often sung by soubrettes: Norina in Don Pasquale and above all Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, a role to which she returned repeatedly until finally discarding it from her repertory after thirty-five years. Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor remained in her repertory for thirty years, allowing her to cast an even more powerful spell on audiences not only in Vienna but all over the world. Starting with Lucia and with three of Mozart's soprano roles, Donna Anna, Konstanze and Giunia in the rarely heard Lucio Silla, she began to develop in the direction of dramatic coloratura roles, a development that finally enabled her to tackle Bellini's Norma. Between these two extremes, Edita Gruberova's career contains many other milestones that may all be enjoyed in excerpted form in the present portrait from Vienna. Roles represented here include the titular heroine of Verdi's La traviata (with Alfredo Kraus as one of her many world-class partners), the flighty Manon in Massenet's opera of the same name - one of only a handful of excursions into the French repertory - and her irresistible Adele in Johann Strauß's operetta, Die Fledermaus. But central to the second half of Edita Gruberova's forty-year reign at the Vienna State Opera are leading roles in bel canto operas, operas which without her would probably never have re-entered the repertory: Elvira in Bellini's I Puritani and four of Donizetti's dramatic coloratura roles, Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux and the title roles in Maria Stuarda, Linda di Chamounix and, most recently, Lucrezia Borgia.