Ewa Podleś obituary


The preternatural high quality of the voice of the Polish contralto Ewa Podleś, who has died aged 71, inevitably divided opinion, however the relative infrequency of her appearances in each London and New York solely enhanced the importance of the event for her many devoted admirers. Maybe probably the most distinctive side of Podleś’ unorthodox vocalism was that her cavernous, all-engulfing instrument – darkish, even elegiac in tone – was nonetheless supremely able to negotiating the virtuoso passagework attribute of the bel canto repertory wherein she excelled.

She was a real “coloratura contralto”, her voice having a low centre of gravity, but with a spread of over three octaves. Nothing extra thrilled her audiences than to listen to her dipping down deep into the baritonal register, solely to sail to a prime D on the conclusion of an aria.

Her debut on the Metropolitan Opera, New York, got here early in her profession, in 1984, getting into late right into a run of Handel’s Rinaldo to interchange Marilyn Horne within the title function. By her personal admission it was not a contented event, and other than a second efficiency within the run and a few alfresco appearances within the Met summer season sequence of parks concert events, she was not invited again there for one more 24 years. In 2008 she made a triumphant return in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, however within the subsidiary function of La Cieca (Gioconda’s mom).

Ewa Podleś as La Marquise de Berkenfeld in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment

She was equally uncared for by Covent Backyard. Having made a single look in Guillaume Inform, in 1990, because the hero’s spouse, Hedwige, she was not seen once more there for extra thanr twenty years, when in 2011 she gave half a dozen performances as Cendrillon’s stepmother, Madame de la Haltière, in Massenet’s opera, utilising her formidable chest to benefit. In 2014 she made an extra six appearances as La Marquise de Berkenfeld within the third revival of Laurent Pelly’s staging of Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment, equally deploying her vocal belongings to comedian impact.

In the meantime Podleś had been pursuing a profitable profession in such homes as La Scala, the Liceu in Barcelona, in addition to Madrid and Berlin, and in addition much less usually in Paris, Vienna and at La Fenice, in Venice. She was in style too within the US and Canada, giving recitals and concert events, not least in New York. In Britain she gave acclaimed performances outdoors London, together with a Rinaldo in Birmingham on Christopher Hogwood’s 1999 tour, and as Jocasta in François Girard’s Canadian Opera Firm manufacturing of Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex on the Edinburgh competition (2002).

Podleś was born in Warsaw, the daughter of Teresa and Walery Podleś. Her mom, an expert contralto and a member of the refrain of the Polish Nationwide Opera, had, in accordance with her daughter, a “very, very deep voice, like a person”. On the age of two, Ewa performed Sorrow to the Cio Cio San of Alina Bolechowska in Madama Butterfly and went on to be taught by her on the Warsaw Conservatoire (now the Chopin College of Music). A prizewinner on the 1978 Worldwide Tchaikovsky Competitors, Moscow, she joined the Teatre Wielki, the Warsaw house of the nationwide opera, the identical yr. In 1980 she married Jerzy Marchwinski, a pianist and professor on the conservatoire, who accompanied her in recitals and acted as her musical adviser.

Ewa Podleś singing Or la Tromba from Handel’s Rinaldo

In her prime she specialised in Rossini and Handel, dispatching florid runs all through the register with breathtaking bravura. The large stamina required for roles similar to Tancredi or Semiramide she took in her stride: “I’m singing 4 and a half hours and it’s no downside.” The title roles of Handel’s Giulio Cesare and Ariodante have been additionally amongst her favourites, as have been the works of Gluck, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and people of her compatriots similar to Szymanowski, Moniuszko and Lutosławski. Later in her profession she gravitated in the direction of heavier roles similar to Verdi’s Azucena and Eboli, Adalgisa in Bellini’s Norma, Erda in Wagner’s Ring – the noumenal high quality of her Earth Mom rising from the depths made her excellent for the function – and Klytemnestra in Strauss’s Elektra.

These much less enamoured of her extremely particular person vocalism employed adjectives similar to “fruity”, even “overblown” to explain it. Typically too these precipitous descents into the chest register may produce a considerably guttural tone, but it surely was a sound that Podleś shamelessly deployed for dramatic impact.

In 2003 she was severely injured when thrown from a automobile in New Mexico, sustaining a number of wounds from glass and fracturing her collarbone. Regardless of persevering with ache she returned to the stage six months later as Ulrica (Un Ballo in Maschera) in Detroit, later repeating the function in Carnegie Corridor. The vigorously corporeal model of appearing demanded by fashionable director’s theatre had by no means been her forte, however thereafter she of necessity prevented actions that may exacerbate her harm. She nonetheless had a robust stage presence, inhabiting a task with animated facial expressions and an nearly visceral depth.

Nor was she an advocate of traditionally knowledgeable efficiency follow, stating: “The interpretations I supply come up from intuition and from the guts.”

Her husband died in 2023. Podleś is survived by their daughter Maria Madej and 4 grandchildren, in addition to her stepdaughter Ania Marchwińska, with whom she collaborated as a recitalist.


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