Kurz, Selma (1874–1933)

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Kurz, Selma (1874–1933)

Austrian soprano. Born on November 15, 1874, in Bielitz, Silesia; died on May 10, 1933, in Vienna, Austria; studied with Johannes Ress in Vienna and Mathilde Marchesi in Paris; married Josef Halban (a gynecologist), in 1910; children: daughter Desirée Halban (b. 1911).

Debuted in Hamburg (1895); sang in Frankfurt (1897–99) and with the Vienna Staatsoper (1899–1927); appeared at Covent Garden (1904, 1905, 1907, and 1925).

Selma Kurz was born in Bielitz, Silesia, in 1874. She began her career in 1895 at Hamburg in the role of Mignon, but her contract was bought out by the Frankfurt Opera where she debuted as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. Other roles included Marguerite in Faust and Queen of the Night in Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute). Kurz then met Gustav Mahler, the composer, and they had a brief affair. He arranged for her to be coached by Anna Bahr-Mildenburg , the singer closely associated with his work. Kurz gave a highly successful performance of Mahler's songs in 1901 and became a member of his Vienna Opera ensemble where she remained until 1927, giving almost 1,000 performances. She often appeared at Covent Garden as well as in Paris and Monte Carlo. It was not until 1921 that she performed in the United States, although a serious illness forced her to cancel all but a few of the scheduled concerts. Kurz made a number of recordings from 1900 until 1925; her repertoire was extensive and included some 60 roles. These reveal that although hers was a beautiful voice, it lacked expressiveness. This flaw probably explains why Selma Kurz enjoyed a major career at one of the world's leading opera houses rather than international acclaim. Her daughter Desirée became famous as Desi Halban and specialized in the music of Gustav Mahler.

suggested reading:

Goldmann, H. Selma Kurz. Bielitz, 1933.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia