Lebendige Vergangenheit - Hildegarde Ranczak

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Hildegarde Ranczak 20 December 1895 - 21 February 1987. "An interpreter of high-spirited, unreserved female characters; individual timbre, attractive and distinctive appearance. " Hildegarde Ranczak, thus characterised in 1940 by the director of the Munich Opera, Clemens Krauss, was a scintillating personality with an impulsive on-stage temperament of explosive ver­ satility: at the same time capricious and pensive, impulsive and reticent, passionate and cool, unapproachably proud and provocatively playful, depending on what seemed appropriate to the moment. She was born on 20 December 1895 in Witkowitz in Moravia (now Ostrava-Vitkovice, Czech Republic) but grew up in America, where her father, a Bohemian musician from Prague, went in 1900 to seek his fortune. In 1912 the family returned to Europe. Originally more interested in the dance and fanatical about the theatre, Ranczak decided to pursue an operatic career, took singing lessons at the Vienna Conservatory, and launched her career in Düsseldorf in 1918. In 1923 she moved to Cologne andin 1926 to Stuttgart. On 21 March 1928, she made a guest appearance in Munich as Carmen and after a second appearance, as Tosca, the company engaged her to perform "the interesting intermediate roles of a singing character actress", to quote the official diction. Soon Ranczak proved herself to be a natural singing actress of a kind that Munich bad never seen before. Following a stirring Donna Elvira du _ng the Opera Festival of 1928, she gave a fascinating performance in the Munich premiere of Die Agyptische Helena in October 1928 as the inscrutable sorceress Aithra. Her passionate Georgetta in Puccini's Il tabarro was followed in February 1929 by the dubious Dolly in Wolf-Ferraris Sly, and on 21 November 1929 she was Munich's first Jenufa. With that she bad established a place for herself in the ensemble. Her repertoire resulted less from vocal criteria but more from the question of which roles suited her mentality. She was equally successful as a single-minded Susanna as she was as a self-destructive Nedda, as an Elektra consumed with jealousy in Idomeneo or as a sentimental "bartered bride" in love, a role in which her Slavic nature helped make her irresistible. Every one of her stage characters - from Aida and Mimi to Katharina in Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung, Marta in Tiefland and the Baroness in Wildschütz - bare the mark of her unmistakable personality. The highlights of her career were the complex female roles by Richard Strauss: Aithra was followed by Salome, Octavian, the Dyer's Wife in Frau ohne Schatten, the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, Zdenka, and finally Clairon in Capriccio in 1942. Because of her work with Clemens Krauss and Rudolf Hartmann starting in 1937, all of these stage figures be me intense character studies of a persuasiveness that was sometimes almost oppressive. Despite a number of guest performances in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Den Haag, the primary focus of Ranczak's career was Munich, the only place she really felt at home. Ranczak remained the undisputed darling of Munich opera-goers until "total war" was declared in the summer of 1944. In 1945 - along with most of the other members of the Clemens-Krauss ensemble - she was banned from her profession for two years, following a disgusting series of denunciation scandals. She retumed to the stage in 1949 and 1950 for several performances as Carmen but then retired to Berg on Lake Starnberg. Helge Rosvaenge, who was never at a lass for a bon mot, was often her partner in Carmen and loved her impulsive acting style. For her 60th birthday in 1955, he sent her a hand-decorated congratulatory telegram with Künneke's "Lied vom Indischen Märchen" from bis operetta Die Grosse Sünderin and a slightly modified version of the Don-Jose quote: "Car tu n'avais eu qu'a paraltre!": "The delicacy of the peach flower and the hardness of the pebble; the sweetness of honey and the tartness of the blackthorn; the vanity of the peacock and the depths of the dreaming lakes; the cooing of the wild dove, laughing· in the forest; the babbling of the splashing stream, the dark silence of the night; the summer's glowing ecstasy, the winter's chilling pain; the gentleness of the shy gazelle and the fierceness of the cruel tiger; the childlike innocence of the lamb, the cunning knowledge of the snake!"