Happy Birthday Astrid Varnay (25 April 1918 – 4 September 2006)

Astrid Varnay - Brunnhilde
One of the most instantly recognisable voices in twentieth century opera would belong to Astrid Varnay.  This American dramatic soprano had a career that spanned over 45 years in roles like Brunnhilde, Salome and Elektra, through to Aida and Lady Macbeth.

Astrid Varnay - Venus
She was the leading Wagnerian soprano at the Met and in Gernany in particular through the 40's and through to the lates 60's, emerging later in her career singing mezzo-soprano roles of which Klytemnestra and Herodias she was most famous for.  She sang for the final time in 1995.
Astrid Varnay - Klytemnestra

The first time I had ever heard or seen her was as Klytemnestra in the Gotz Friedrich film of Elektra, when I was a young teenager, follwed by Herodias from the same director.  She left quite an impression in my mind.

Now I listen to her recordings frequently, especially her Brunnhilde, Isolde and Ortud.  I am continually amazed by her strength and evenness of voice and power through her entire range.  She left behind many live recordings in most of her signature roles, many of them in excellent sound.  This audio is from the final moments of the Immolation Scene from Gotterdammerung.

Happy Birthday Astrid Varnay, your recorded legacy will provide a benchmark and inspiration for dramatic sopranos for many years to come.


  1. I remember mentioning before that I saw her powerful Klytemnestra in Paris in 75 as I recall. Wearing a huge standup collar and holding a tall walking stick she screamed for lights and more lights as dozens of men wearing loincloths weaved their way around a mountainous set to circle her and terrify Electra.Barry


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