In Your Face, Astrid

Astrid Varnay by Maurizio Anzeri

Published: October 17, 2013

MUNICH — Spirograph needlemaniac defaces legendary (and conveniently deceased) Brünnhilde. And so on.

Bavarian State Opera’s anticipated additions to its portrait gallery went public yesterday, their twenty-one victims — er, honored subjects — being depicted in various media by twenty-one visual artists. Scattered docent notes:

• Anja Harteros – toner light
• Astrid Varnay – best in person
• Brigitte Fassbaender – high treason
• Christian Gerhaher – sun shines out of his … mouth
• Diana Damrau – per pietà
• Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau – cluster analysis
• Edita Gruberová – background material
• Fritz Wunderlich – for Hasselblad‎
• Hermann Prey – about to …
• Hildegard Behrens – Dietrich? Garbo? both?
• Jonas Kaufmann – David? Cellini? finished?
• Júlia Várady – ready for her close-up
• Klaus Florian Vogt – Brabant H.S.
• Kurt Moll – a wash
• Lucia Popp – monochrome Sophie
• Margaret Price – unmasked!
• Peter Seiffert – got THaT rigHt!
• René Kollo – eye, nose, mouth, eye
• Waltraud Meier – Broadway-bound
• Wolfgang Brendel – every inch the Bavarian
• Wolfgang Koch – unhappy camper

The needleman in question is Maurizio Anzeri, a London-based Italian whose stock-in-trade is embroidered photography, much of it stunning though not usually intended to depict a specific person.

Anzeri likes to cover a face, spurred on perhaps by its energy. It is unclear why, but the Freunde des Nationaltheaters München e.V. chose him to portray soprano Astrid Varnay, and he has overcome the obvious hurdle by recourse to a diptych (shown). Whether he listened to her work for inspiration or direction, or has sensed what she achieved, is anyone’s guess.

Raised in New Jersey, Varnay debuted at the Metropolitan Opera at the age of 23 singing Wagner’s Sieglinde and, days later, Brünnhilde. After successes in the 1950s at Bavaria’s Bayreuth Festival as well as at Bavarian State Opera, she settled in Munich and is buried here.

Photo © Bayerische Staatsoper

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