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Selma Kurz (October 15, 1874 – May 10, 1933) was an Austrian operatic soprano known for her brilliant coloratura technique.
Selma Kurz was born in Biala, the poorer of two adjoining Austrian towns (the other was Bielitz), to a very humble Jewish family of eleven children. She grew up in Bielitz. (Today they are a single city known as Bielsko-Biała, in the Polish province of Silesia.) While still a girl, she was taken to a convent to be trained as a seamstress. The nuns quickly discovered the beauty of her voice, however, and she also often sang in the local synagogue. These circumstances led local people to raise some money so that she could go to Vienna and audition for Professor Gänsbacher, a prominent vocal teacher who did not teach women, but wrote important letters of recommendation. Little Selma was thus enabled to visit the imposing Schloss Totis, the Viennese residence, en villéggiature, of the famous patron of the arts count Nicholas (Miklós) Esterházy de Galántha, who agreed to pay for her lessons with another prominent vocal pedagogue, Johannes Ress.
Once her career was established, Kurz consulted such world-renowned voice teachers as Jean de Reszke in Nice and Mathilde Marchesi in Paris, as well as the soprano Felicie Kaschowska, well known in Vienna; but she always called herself, above all, a pupil of Ress.
She was first heard in Vienna at a student concert of Ress pupils on March 22, 1895. She got good notices and offers poured from many opera houses, especially the ones in provincial Germany, which were always looking for new talent. She made her début in the title role of Ambroise Thomas's opera Mignon at the Hamburg Stadttheater, on May 12, 1895. She appeared there and at Frankfurt am Main for the next four seasons, singing diverse roles including Eudoxie in Halévy's La Juive, Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser and Bizet's Carmen.