Hilde Zadek remained forever grateful to her mentors and teachers, with whom she formed enduring bonds, starting with the extraordinary Helena Kagan, who encouraged the young nurse to apply to the Jerusalem Conservatory. One of her teachers there was the composer Josef Gruenthal (better known as Josef Tal), who accompanied his pupil on the piano at recitals around the region. Arriving in Palestine in 1944, the soprano Rose Pauly took the young singer under her wing – and gave Hilde her stage jewellery. In Zurich, the soprano Ria Ginster helped Hilde to make the transition to the international stage. And Franz Salmhofer, post-war director of the Vienna State Opera, not only took his chances with a young, inexperienced singer, but continued to support and advise Hilde for years to come.
Josef Krips returned to Vienna from a Russian tour to learn that he would be conducting an unknown soprano’s stage debut in Aida the following evening. “Professor Krips carried me through the performance,” she recalls gratefully. He was the “born teacher” and the inspiration for her own teaching career. Hilde Zadek would go on to sing under many of the greats, including: Sir Thomas Beecham, Karl Böhm, Fritz Busch, Clemens Krauss, Herbert von Karajan, Erich Kleiber, Otto Klemperer, Hans Knappertsbusch and Dimitri Mitropoulos.
Hilde Zadek was a keen champion and passionate performer of music by living composers. She starred in the Vienna premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s The Consul and in Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler, conducted by the composer himself. Antigonae by Carl Orff had its world premiere at the Salzburg Festival, with Hilde in the role of Eurydice. She was the mother in Bluthhochzeit by Wolfgang Fortner, and the first chorister in Murder in the Cathedral by Ildebrando Pizzetti. Hilde Zadek formed a close relationship with the conductor, composer and performer Michael Gielen, who would often accompany her on the piano at recitals.
In the competitive opera world, it is a testament to Hilde’s personality that, despite appearing suddenly from nowhere and shooting to stardom, she was so warmly embraced by so many of her colleagues. Elisabeth Höngen, who sang Amneris to Hilde’s first Aida, became a firm friend and regular concert partner. Hilde and George London bonded in their early days as co-stars at the Vienna State Opera. Hilde was an early supporters of the George London Foundation, and selected GLF competition winners were sent to Vienna for coaching sessions with her as part of their award. At the New York Met, she became friends with Dezső Ernster; together they sang Fidelio in Jerusalem, performed in Hebrew for the first time. Christa Ludwig, who joined the Vienna ensemble as Octavian to Hilde Zadek’s Feldmarschallin in 1956, became Honorary President of the Hilde Zadek Foundation.