German opera star Christa Ludwig dies at the age of 93

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Christa Ludwig (C) with the Legion d'Honneur on June 8, 2010 in ViennaImage source, AFP
Image caption,
Christa Ludwig was awarded the French Legion of Honour in 2010

The celebrated German opera singer, Christa Ludwig, has died at the age of 93.

The mezzo-soprano, who was born in Berlin, died at her home near the Austrian capital, Vienna, on Saturday, her family confirmed.

Ludwig made her debut in Frankfurt aged 18 just after the end of World War Two. She retired in 1994.

The singer was widely praised for the rich quality, range and amplitude of her voice.

Ludwig grew up in Aachen, western Germany, with parents who were both musical. Her father was a tenor and also conducted at the local opera house. Her mother was a mezzo-soprano.

"Singing for me was as natural as learning to walk," Ludwig once said.

Image source, Getty Images
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She performed with American soprano Shirley Verrett in Les Troyens at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1973

Ludwig joined the Vienna State Opera in 1955 and performed at the famous Salzburg Festival under Austrian conductor Karl Boehm.

Her most memorable roles included Dorabella in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Kundry in Wagner's Parsifal, Leonora in Beethoven's Fidelio and both Octavian and Marschallin in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.

During her long career she also sang at London's Royal Opera House, New York's Metropolitan Opera, Milan's La Scala and other top international venues.

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Ludwig, second right, in a scene from Mozart's Cosi fan tutte at the Salzburg Festival in 1963

In 2010 France awarded her the Legion of Honour.

"It was the very special combination of a unique voice and intelligence of interpretation that made her so special," the Vienna State Opera said.

La Scala opera house said the music world had "lost a luminous and inimitable personality".

Ludwig was married to the Austrian bass-baritone Walter Berry for 13 years. They divorced in 1970 and two years later she married French actor and director Paul-Emile Deiber, who died 2011.

Image source, EPA
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Christa Ludwig was born into a musical family in Berlin in 1928