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November 25, 2011

A salute to soprano Sena Jurinac, who died this week at 90

The name Sena Jurinac is not quite a household one, expect in the homes of really devoted vocal music fans, but the Yugoslav soprano left quite a mark. She died Tuesday in Germany at the age of 90.

A particularly superb interpreter of Mozart and Strauss, Miss Jurinac was a mainstay at the Vienna Opera for many years.

The Grove's Dictionary entry on the singer sums her up neatly: Her voice was "beautifully pure, rich and even throughout its range"; "the integrity, eloquence and commitment" of her singing "have made an unforgettable impression on ... generations of opera-lovers"; "she will be remembered as one of the outstanding sopranos of her time, generous of voice and radiant of personality."

Here are a few ...

exquisite examples of that generosity and and radiance:

Posted by Tim Smith at 2:18 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


Late to the ball on this, but when I was younger, I always wanted to be a part of the particular Wiener Staatsoper casts that Sena was a part of. Her voice, as well as many others from that time, were responsible for inspiring the dreams of many American singers. The ability to work regularly in ensemble format with singers that one had familiarity enough with to know their own ins and outs of performance style would be fantastic. But isn't really a reality in the way operas are cast and rehearsed today.

I never had the pleasure of seeing Sena perform live--I only know her voice from audio recordings and film recordings of productions. But her voice was remarkably consistent in everything I've heard, and she never resorted to being cloying with her voice as a dramatic effect, which is something that is encouraged in lyric singers at the expense of technique and dramatic honesty at the moment. She embodied her characters by singing very honestly.

Couldn't agree more. It was a different time, with a different aesthetic -- a better one, many would argue. And Sena Jurinac surely exemplified musical refinement.Thanks for the comments. TIM

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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