Sure, Schwarzkopf meant enough to me as a dewy opera kitten it seems I should say something on her passing, I think now confirmed. Needless to say, her death is not going to provoke the kind of outpourings of some recent losses; she was notoriously tough and perhaps even cold, her heyday ended long ago, and we never end up knowing these things, but much was asked and said about her politics, which may have been of the very worst.
Well, when I was 19 and just past my initial mystification that one singer could be told from another, hers was a voice (the second, after Callas) I could clock right out of the gate. Everyone likes to feel knowledgeable. I bought the Karajan Figaro, senza secco, because it was on two discs and cheap, maybe my first complete or quasi-complete opera recording. I liked that it didn't have the chatter, which I couldn't see the music in, just the meat and no bones. I liked Irmgard Seefried (still do). But really I guess I was, yeah, very taken with the quavery, regretful sound of Schwarzkopf's countess. I have mixed feelings these days, maybe preferring a little more lushness.
Later that year, I spent my first summer in Bloomington, and bought myself a birthday present of Karajan's Ariadne, 100% unfamiliar with the piece. It took me a while to warm up to--much of the prologue felt like bones. I remember falling asleep in the heat and awful humidity with the endless closing duet on like a fever dream in the background. What I immediately took to, though, was Schwarzkopf's full-soul plunge into "Es Gibt ein Reich." It remains perhaps my favorite reading of any aria. She never sang it onstage, right? But she sings it like she's absolutely ecstatic about the idea of dying, and pretty much nobody else does that.
So it's odd I am not very moved by her death, but then it would be odd to be moved by it too, in a way (I start to sound like a broken record about the death of people we've never met: not ours, not ours.) I guess for the past X years I've been less moved, in many roles, by what I remember reading of as her "interventionist" style. I'm not sure why Ariadne is exempt: to me it puts everyone else's Ariadne in black and white. Her four last, though, seem academic. Her Capriccio Countess doesn't break my heart, really even a little. Lately it's a style I associate with the terrible decline of Fleming, so maybe there's that on top of it all.
Well, how many times can we say it's the end of an era? It really does feel historical, though, or am I alone on that? Who else from that particular time is still with us? Maybe instead of putting on her Ariadne tonight I'll put on the Figaro, if I can even still find it, and think of that era in singing and its grace: Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Jurinac, Kunz, all sounding to me like photographs of my family from the 50's look, irretrievably steeped in another way of living.