Mödl, Martha (1912—)

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Mödl, Martha (1912—)

German mezzo-soprano and soprano. Born on March 22, 1912, in Nuremberg, Germany; studied with Klinck-Schneider at Nuremberg Conservatory.

Debuted as Hänsel in Nuremberg (1942); sang mezzo roles in Düsseldorf (1945–49) and Hamburg Staatsoper (1947–55); made Covent Garden debut as Carmen (1949); debuted at Bayreuth (1951–67); debuted at Metropolitan Opera (1957).

Martha Mödl, whose singing career began late in life, did not perform on the operatic stage until she was 30; she attributed the longevity of her working life to this late start. Beginning as a performer of light mezzo-soprano repertory, Mödl then moved into more dramatic Wagnerian roles. At the first postwar festival held at Bayreuth in 1951, she appeared as Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal, later performing Isolde and Brünnhilde. She recorded the Walküre with the great conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler for EMI before recording the entire Ring cycle with the same conductor. These performances were a touchstone for all modern interpretations. In the 1960s, Mödl returned to roles in her natural mezzo range because the strain in her upper register had become more and more apparent. Mödl was a dominating stage presence as well as a powerful singer. Her performances at Bayreuth in the early 1950s remain the most memorable of her long career.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia