Opera Scotland

Sena Jurinac Suggest updates

Srebrenka Jurinac

Born Travnik, 24 October 1921.

Died Augsburg, 22 November 2011.

Bosnian soprano.

Sena Jurinac was one of the greatest exponents of leading roles by Mozart and Strauss in the fifties and sixties. Her Mozart roles included Cherubino, Pamina, Ilia and Donna Elvira, later adding the Countess and Donna Anna. She was particularly celebrated for her interpretations of Octavian and the Composer. Her range was wide, however, and she also excelled in Gluck, Verdi and Puccini, as well as Berg and Janáček.

Background and early career

Jurinac had a Croation father and Viennese mother, and studied in Zagreb under Milka Kostrenčić. In 1942 she made her first appearance at the Zagreb Opera, as First Flower Maiden in Parsifal, following that with Mimì and the Countess. She became a member of the Vienna State Opera in 1944, just days before the house was bombed, and it was as a member of that group that she made her British debut, as Dorabella, during the historically important visit to Covent Garden in 1947.

UK appearances

She spent many summers at Glyndebourne, and during the early years of the Edinburgh International Festival Jurinac appeared with that company in the King's Theatre on a number of occasions in a total of six major roles, She began in 1949 as Dorabella, returning in 1950 as Cherubino and in 1953 as Ilia. Her 1954 appearances were as the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos, as well as Fiordiligi. The following year saw her first appearance in a Verdi role, Leonora in La forza del destino.

She sang at Glyndebourne between 1949 and 1956 and returned to the Royal Opera House regularly between 1959 and 1973. Later roles at Covent Garden included Butterfly, Leonore in Fidelio (with Klemperer in 1961) as well as Tosca and the Marschallin. Her final appearances there were in Iphigénie en Tauride.

Salzburg and elsewhere

During the years when Karajan dominated the Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival, Jurinac sang Octavian to the Marschallin of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (filmed for cinema) and extended her repertoire to include the leading soprano roles in Don Carlos and Otello. She sang several Russian roles - Marina, Tatyana and Lisa - and other parts from the Slavonic repertoire included Mařenka as well as Jenůfa and, in later years, the Kostelnička. She did not generally sing Wagner, though she did appear at Bayreuth as Eva in 1957 and also sang Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. She was also celebrated as an interpreter of Marie in Berg's Wozzeck.

She made an early debut at La Scala, as Cherubino. She did not appear much in the USA, making her debut at San Francisco in 1959 as Butterfly, but she never appeared at the Met. Her farewell operatic performance was as the Marschallin in Vienna in November 1982.

As a concert artist Jurinac was particularly noted for her performances of the Strauss Four Last Songs. After her retirement from singing, she was noted as a teacher, particularly as a conductor of master classes.


She did not make many recordings, though her Ilia and Countess are preserved from Glyndebourne days. Several other roles have been made available in live recordings.

Roles in Scotland

Dorabella Fiordiligi's sister, engaged to Ferrando
Così fan tutte 1949
Cherubino the Count's page
Nozze di Figaro 1950
Ilia a Trojan princess, daughter of Priam
Idomeneo, Re di Creta 1953
Ariadne on Naxos 1954
Fiordiligi a young lady from Ferrara, engaged to Guglielmo
Così fan tutte 1954
Donna Leonora di Vargas
Force of Destiny 1955

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