She was raging, begging and crying. Opera legend Edita Gruberová had to navigate her way through her breakthrough role

SND Opera is preparing a special Edita Gruberová Tribute gala concert.

She was always told she was special. And when she sang, the audience couldn’t breathe. Critics were delighted. The newspapers wrote superlatives, mentioning his extraordinary talent, purity of intonation, technical mastery. She also finished the conservatory with the addition that she is the best graduate in the field of singing. Still, it didn’t take long for an offer to propel her to the top and allow her to really shine.

Slovak opera diva Edita Gruberová had a far from easy start to her career, but in the end she became an unparalleled legend and phenomenon in the world of opera. The SND will commemorate the exceptional personality of the opera diva with the Edita Gruberová Tribute gala concert, which will officially open the 103rd theatrical season on Saturday 10 September.

What does it allow?

Edita Gruberová made her debut at the Slovak National Theater while still studying at the conservatory in 1968. It was her first experience with a professional theater stage and she met with enormous success with the public and the professional community. Our first scene needs to engage that talent immediately, critics argued. After all, it would be against common sense if they didn’t want her. And yet, no offer came from the CIS. However, the budding singer did not give up and did not hesitate to ask the opera director directly about the engagement. However, she only learned that there was no place for her in the SND. They say they have enough coloratura sopranos. And besides, what does it allow?

In reality, however, his refusal was not due to reasons of capacity. Edita Gruberová did not suit the communist regime. His father was German, moreover, in the past, he was imprisoned for his anti-communist positions. And young talent meant nothing to the Communists. Edita Gruberová therefore went to Banská Bystrica, where she became a member of the opera troupe of the Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theater. However, they had to persuade her, the young soprano somehow could not get rid of the feeling that only those who are not wanted elsewhere go to Bystrica. The ensemble received an extraordinary boost there, which immediately won over critics and viewers.

However, Banská Bystrica soon proved to be not the most ideal environment for an aspiring singer. Colleagues in the ensemble envied her success, and she often hit rock bottom. Polluted air in Banská Bystrica due to cement production caused health problems in Gruberova. She often sang under the influence of antibiotics until she was physically exhausted.

Beyond borders with duvets

She went to pre-singing at the Vienna State Opera scared and with trembling knees, but her fears were in vain. In Vienna, they immediately discovered his unique talent and his vocal potential and offered him a contract on the spot. For many months, Edita Gruberová traveled to Vienna by bus from Bratislava, each time enduring unpleasant inspections at the border. When she decided to leave Czechoslovakia for good at the beginning of 1971, she could hardly take anything with her so as not to arouse unnecessary suspicion.

And yet, in addition to some clothes, she also put duvets in her suitcase, and as if on purpose, the customs officer wanted to see her suitcase. She had to promise him that she would bring pigtails back with her to Czechoslovakia. However, Edita Gruberová never returned to her homeland. For escaping, the communist regime sentenced her in absentia to two years in prison. It also motivated her even more to learn German better, to obtain Austrian citizenship and to create a new home in a foreign country.

But even her debut at the Vienna State Opera was not easy. In the first years, Gruber was chosen only for small roles, in which her talent did not have the opportunity to fully develop. A great opportunity still eluded her, as she worked hard on herself in private – even then she devoted herself daily to rehearsing the role of Zerbinette from Strauss’s opera Ariadne on the Nax, which was to become her destiny. But several years must pass before that.

Desired success with Zerbinetta

Edita Gruberová knew that by passively waiting for an opportunity, she would never get it. She later mentioned that I guess she never had more free time than during her early years in Vienna. Every morning she called the doorman of the State Opera and asked if she was included in one of the auditions, but she always got a negative answer. “And so I walked for hours along the Danube Canal and cried like a child,” Gruberová recalls those days in his biography Portrait of Edita Gruberová.

She repeatedly begged her agent at the time to find her an engagement for the dream role of Zerbinetta. However, each time she received the answer that her face is unknown to major theaters and therefore they are not interested in her. An artist is only interesting when he sells himself. When a new production of the opera Ariadne on the Nax appeared on the program for the 1976/77 theater season at the Vienna State Opera and a singer from Berlin was to play the coveted role of Gruber’s Zerbinette, the talented soprano no longer hides her indignation.

She later recalled that she really exploded at that time. “I raged, begged and cried all at the same time,” she described in her biography. And she did well. She succeeded in having her song heard by the legendary conductor and personal friend of the composer Richard Strauss, Karl Böhm, who was to set the opera to music in Vienna.

Böhm was so delighted with Gruber that when she sang the role of Zerbinetta with the orchestra for the first time in rehearsal, he embraced her with happiness. The creation of Ariane at the Nax in November 1976 brought Gruber well-deserved success and directly marked his way to the great stages of the world of opera. News of his triumph spread incredibly quickly. The same year, Edita Gruberová crossed the Atlantic to make her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Photo gallery

Tribute by SND Gruber Source: in the photo Edita Gruberová, Bayerische Staatsoper, 2019 Photo: Wilfried Hösl; Visual: Barbora Šajgalíkova

Gruberová, a phenomenon in the world of opera

Since then, Gruberová has had no shortage of offers. Her career took off and her fame grew at breakneck speed. The audience loved her, often cheering endlessly on the bleachers, even when she took the stage. And even in operas, where the standing ovation was rather an exception.

She was called the queen of the belkanta, the diva divissima or the primadonna assoluta, but also the voice of the nightingale, the queen of song, the queen of coloratura and the divine Edita. She sang on the stages of great opera houses for 51 years. According to writer Niel Rishoi, who wrote his biography Portrait of Edita Gruberová, her personality is not easy to portray. She had a strongly rooted instinct for independence, a sense of justice and honesty. She often relied on her inner instinct to assess the characters. She kept her life private and gave few interviews. “On stage, I belong to the audience, but the rest of the time belongs to me,” she reportedly said in the post.

Edita Gruberová died suddenly on October 18, 2021 at the age of 74. The opera legend will be reborn on the SND stage in the memories of his colleagues and friends, as well as in the tones of the character arias that characterize him on Saturday, September 10, during the Edita Gruberová Tribute gala concert.

Slovak and international opera stars will pay tribute to Edita Gruberová on the SND stage. Among them is the legendary Mexican tenor Francisco Araiza, longtime stage partner of Edita Gruberová. Another star guest, the American soprano Brenda Rae, who regularly performs in the most prestigious opera houses, such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich or Covent Garden in London.

Proof of the artistic quality of this internationally recognized soprano, her debut this year at the Salzburg Festival in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in the role of Queen of the Night – one of the key roles that made Edita Gruberová famous in the world of opera. Among the stars of Slovak opera, the public will see for the first time on the SND stage the soprano Slávka Zámečníková, but also Simona Šaturová, Ľubica Vargicová and Pavel Bršlík. The Slovak coloratura sopranos Martina Masaryková, Mariana Sajko and Andrea Vizvári will also be present. SND Opera’s new conductor, Kevin Rhodes, will conduct.

The musical event of the year will be completed by the exhibition LA GRUBEROVÁ in the foyer of the SND opera house. Tickets for the gala concert can be purchased online or at the SND box office.

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