Zoltán Závodszky

July 18, 1892. Bátorkeszi – September 8, 1976. Budapest
Závodszky Zoltán (Fotó: Országos Széchényi Könyvtár)
Závodszky Zoltán
(Fotó: Országos
Széchényi Könyvtár)
Zoltán Závodszky enrolled at the Academy of Music in 1916 taking three majors simultaneously. He studied singing until 1920 with György Anthes, organ with Dezső Antalffy-Zsiross for three years and pursued composition studies as a pupil of Leó Weiner, later Zoltán Kodály and Viktor Herzfeld.
He became member of the Opera in 1920; sang small and character roles for 6 years at the request of Kerner, he played Erik in Der fliegende Holländer in 1926 which made his way towards Wagner roles. He appeared in leading tenor roles of all the Wagner music-dramas within a few years; he was –and has been until present days- the first Hungarian tenor who undertook these roles in their entirety. Those, who wanted to return to the tradition and Wagner-cult created by two world-famous former directors and Wagner interpreter of the Opera (Artúr Nikisch and Gustav Mahler), were waiting for Závodszky's appearance for years. The sensation of the heroic tenor, capable of the personification of all the Wagner heroes, singing in Hungarian who was outstanding in voice, performance and appearance, as well meant the potential for the return of the ideal.
Sergio Failoni, who gave a different image for the Budapest Opera in the 1930's as an authentic conductor of Italian repertoire, established his prestige by proving his expertise of Wagner interpretation. The appearance of the new Hungarian Wagner Ensemble under his guidance was a sensational event in autumn of 1930. Závodszky appeared as Tristan; his culture proved to be such a virtue that was highly regarded at an opera stage always struggling against the shortness in Wagner-tenors.
He celebrated the 40th anniversary of the start of his career in this role at age 69, with full artistic suggestivity and real Wagner singing-style which had been missed in Budapest for a long time.
Závodszky was the central figure of all Wagner productions for decades; the Hungarian model and trustee of the style. In the first, renewed production of Tannhäuser in 1946, after World War II, (conducted by Ferencsik) he sang the title role for the 50th time. Perfect declamation, stage acting, style and voice characterized his portrait.
In 1928 he was the first Hungarian Stravinsky-Oedipus (performed 6 times altogether) and even the prestigious Sándor Jemnitz acknowledged his acting by stating that he was the only one who understood the role.
He played other figures as a heroic tenor: Pedro, count Galicin, etc. He sang Walther at age 70, as well.
Zoltán Závodszky was formed to be an excellent Lied singer by his artistic discipline, his humility and awareness for the works. Being an operatic hero he could give up with amazing intuition all the acting in Lied singing, to be able to portray the characteristics of each finely drawn melodic line plastically to his audiences. He always sang the songs of Schubert and Schumann in Hungarian in his programs, exclusively in his own translations, emphasizing the importance of the interpretation of the music with that, as well.
Upon his retirement he taught at the Academy of Music and then in Vienna. He was a literary translator, as well; several operas are played in his translations. He is a life-member of the Opera.
T. A.


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