Obituary: Julia Osvath

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The Independent Online
Julia Osvath, soprano: born Budapest 15 February 1908; died 20 August 1994.

JULIA OSVATH, the Hungarian soprano, was denied the international career that she undoubtedly deserved by the time and circumstances of her birth.

Osvath had been singing professionally for only four years when the Second World War broke out, while the post-war isolation of Hungary overshadowed the final 20 years of her active life in the opera-house. She did, however, enjoy her moment of glory at the Salzburg Festival in 1937, when she sang the Queen of Night in Die Zauberflote under the baton of Arturo Toscanini. It was the last year before the war that Toscanini, and many other famous artists, appeared at Salzburg; the cast for Die Zauberflote was legendary, including Jarmila Novotna as Pamina, Helge Roswaenge as Tamino, Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender as Papageno and Alexander Kipnis as Sarastro.

Julia Osvath was born in Budapest in 1908. In her teens she sang in amateur choirs, then became a soloist in the Palestrina Choir of Budapest and in the Matthias Church choir. In 1933 she entered the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music to train her voice professionally, and two years later was engaged by the Budapest Opera, where she appeared for more than 30 years. At first a coloratura soprano, she later sang lyrical roles and the lighter dramatic soprano repertory. A notable Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, she was also much admired as Elisabeth in Don Carlos and Musetta in La Boheme. She sang Melinda, the heroine and wife to the titular hero of Bank ban, the opera by Ferenc Erkel regarded as a national symbol in Hungary.

Osvath performed mainly in Budapest, where she was greatly loved and tremendously popular with the audiences. After the war she made two visits as a guest artist to the Soviet Union, in 1949 and 1959. She retired from active participation in opera in 1969, but remained an honorary life member of the Budapest Opera. She was nominated a National Artist and awarded the Kossuth Prize.

A technically rather poor live recording of the Toscanini Zauberflote (in which the great conductor appears to be in a tearing hurry) exists, while there are other radio and stage performances by Osvath on disc including selections from Die Meistersinger and a complete Bank ban, probably the best souvenir of a fine artist.

(Photograph omitted)