The celebrated German mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig was a true child of the theater. Her parents were mezzo-soprano Eugenie Besalla-Ludwig and Anton Ludwig, a tenor and operatic administrator. She studied primarily with her mother, but also in Frankfurt with Felicie Hüni-Mihacsek. She was greatly influenced by conductors Karl Böhm, Herbert von Karajan, and Leonard Bernstein.
She made her debut as Prince Orlofsky (Die Fledermaus) in Frankfurt at age 18 and sang there regularly until 1952. After a period in Darmstadt from 1952 to 1954, she spent a year in Hannover. She joined the Vienna State Opera in 1955 and became one of its principal artists. She was made a Kammersängerin in 1962 and remained with the company for more than 30 years. In 1954, she appeared at the Salzburg Festival as Cherubino (Le nozze di Figaro) and returned there annually until 1981.
Ms. Ludwig made her American debut in Chicago as Dorabella (Così fan tutte ) in 1959. In December 1959, she made her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Cherubino, and subsequently returned there regularly. In 1966, she sang Brangäne (Tristan und Isolde) at the Bayreuth Festival and later appeared there as Kundry (Parsifal). She also sang regularly in the opera houses of London (Covent Garden), Hamburg, San Francisco, Munich, Paris, and Milan (La Scala).
In addition to her appearances as an opera singer, Ms. Ludwig pursued a significant career both as a soloist with orchestras and as a lieder artist. She was one of the most superb lieder and oratorio singers of her time, acclaimed for her performances of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wolf, Mahler, and Strauss. She was also a remarkable interpreter of J. S. Bach's music, and performed and recorded most of his major vocal works.
In March 1993, Ms. Ludwig made her farewell appearance at the Met singing Fricka in Die Walküre. In 1993, she also appeared in a farewell lieder tour in Europe and the US. Her performance career closed with concert and operatic farewells in Vienna in 1994.
In 1980, she received the Golden Ring of the Vienna State Opera, and in 1981, she was made an honorary member. In 1989, she was honored by the French government as a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur and as a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et des lettres. Her biography … und ich wäre so gern Primadonna geworden was published in 1994. Ms. Ludwig continues to frequently teach young singers in master classes.