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Martha Mödl

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Biography

Martha Mödl (March 22, 1912, in Nuremberg – December 17, 2001, in Stuttgart) was a German soprano, and later a mezzo-soprano. She specialized in large dramatic roles, most notably Wagnerian roles such as Isolde, Kundry, and Brünnhilde. Mödl was celebrated for her highly individualized interpretations, exceptional acting ability, and intense stage presence.

Mödl worked for many years as a bookkeeper and secretary in Nuremberg. At the age of 28, she began vocal studies at the Conservatory of her home town. Having made her debut as Hansel in Remscheid in 1942, she then added Cherubino, Mignon and Azucena to her roles. Moving to Düsseldorf, she began performing Dorabella, Venus, Octavian, Eboli, Carmen and Klytemnestra. She was then invited to perform in Carmen at Covent Garden in 1949 (returning for the Ring in 1959, Klytemnestra in 1966 and Die schweigsame Frau in 1972), and joined the Hamburg State Opera in the same year. In 1950, she made her La Scala debut as Kundry.
Her Venus in Hamburg was noticed by Wieland Wagner, and she was invited to play the role of Kundry at Bayreuth in 1951, becoming part of a group of singers called the “New Bayreuth,” often sharing roles with Astrid Varnay. She went on to perform Isolde in 1952 and joined the Stuttgart Opera. Martha would reprise the role of Isolde on TV when Leonard Bernstein did his “What Makes Opera Grand?” segment on Omnibus. She also performed as Kundry and Brunnhilde at the Metropolitan between 1956 and 1960.

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