Forgotten Opera Singers
May 16, 2020
Johanna Gadski (Soprano) (Anklam, Prussia 15 June 1872 – Berlin, Germany 22 February 1932)
Johanna Emilia Agnes Gadski. She was blessed with a secure, powerful, ringing voice, fine musicianship and an excellent technique. These attributes enabled her to enjoy a top-flight career in New York City and London, performing heavy dramatic roles in the German and Italian repertoires. She made her debut at the Kroll Opera in Berlin (1894), Covent Garden (1898), Metropolitan Opera (1900), Munich (1905), Salzburg (1917); became leader of Wagnerian touring company (1920s). Johanna Gadski was one of the first Victor Red Seal artists and made almost 100 recordings during her career. Singing in Germany between 1889 and 1895, she debuted at age 17 in Lortzing's Undine at the Kroll Opera in Berlin. When she joined New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1900, she became one of the company's leading Wagnerian sopranos although she performed Mozart and Mahler ably as well. Also a recitalist, Gadski was one of the few to include songs by American composers on her program. An extremely popular recitalist, Gadski was much loved by audiences but fared less well with critics who complained that her pitch varied, her interpretation was flawed, and that she had a limited emotional range. Numerous recordings, however, demonstrate that she had a large voice with a pure tone. Her recordings, in fact, are considered classics. Gadski was forced to discontinue her American career during World War I due to anti-German sentiment, but she returned as a popular performer after the Armistice. She formed her own Wagnerian touring company in the 1920s which performed in Europe and the United States. Johanna Gadski died in an auto accident on February 22, 1932. Records kept her voice alive, giving Gadski a much deserved reputation—far greater than the one she enjoyed in her lifetime.