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The great Swedish-American soprano Astrid Varnay died yesterday morning in Munich.

Varnay started off her career with a huge splash, she made her operatic debut on 24 hours notice , replacing the indisposed Lotte Lehmann as Sieglinde in Walkure on a Met broadcast. The December 6, 1941 triumph was overshadowed by the bombing of Pearl Harbor the following day.

Varnay's career spanned almost 55 years. I saw her in the "second" part of her career where she took on

character roles which she performed vividly.

She wrote a truly enjoyable autobiography 55 Years in Five Acts.

A wonderful singer and a lovely lady




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The New York Times obit, by Anthony Tommasini.

Her voice had a remarkable range of colorings, from steely luster in climactic outbursts to dusky mellowness in poignant phrases. She was an alluring woman and a natural actress who conveyed both tragic dignity and impetuosity. Text and music were one in Ms. Varnay’s subtle interpretations.

Her work recently came to attention again when the Testament label released the first two installments of a complete account of Wagner’s “Ring,” recorded live at the 1955 Bayreuth Festival in Germany. Ms. Varnay, portraying Brunnhilde in “Walkure” and “Siegfried,” sings with shimmering intensity and keen dramatic insight.

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Donald Collup, whose documentary "Never before: The Life and First New York Career of Astrid Varnay" was based partly on conversations with Astrid Varnay in 2003, is presenting a free screening of the film in memory in Ms. Varnay.

Date: Thursday, November 2, 2006

Location: The Lillie Devereaux Blake School

Address: 45 East 81st Street

Time: 8pm

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I was touched by Tomassini's closing paragraph:

"In the late 1960’s she gave up her weighty dramatic repertory, which included her chilling portrayal of Strauss’s Elektra, and began a “second career,” as she called it, singing mezzo-soprano roles and character parts. Mr. Levine recalled that when he asked Ms. Varnay late in her career why she still undertook small roles like Mama Lucia in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria rusticana,” she told him, “ ‘I just love being on stage seeing up close the work of my younger colleagues,’ ” he said.

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