Hungarian mezzo-soprano Klara Palankay, 85, acclaimed for her role as Judith in Bela Bartok's opera "Bluebeard's Castle," died Wednesday in a Budapest hospital where she was being treated for a cold, said Hungarian State Opera press officer Judit Varkonyi. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Palankay studied at Budapest's Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music and later in Rome between 1938 and 1944, the year she began her career at the Hungarian State Opera.
Paired with bass Mihaly Szekely as Bluebeard, Palankay was considered the greatest Judith in Bartok's one-hour, one-act opera in which the duo have the only singing roles on stage.
Critics also view the pair's 1956 recording of "Bluebeard," with Janos Ferencsik directing the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, as one of the best performances of the Bartok opus -- with libretto by Bela Balazs -- written in 1911 but premiered in 1918.
During her career Palankay performed key roles in several other operas, including Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" (Amneris) and "Rigoletto" (Maddalena), Richard Wagner's "Tannhauser" (Venus) and the lead in Georges Bizet's "Carmen."
She retired in 1970 and was the recipient of several awards, including the Bela Bartok Memorial Medal in 1982.