How it all began
Having recovered from a lung disease caused by starvation during World War II, I began studying medicine at the LMU in Munich in the winter semester of 1953 with the aim of becoming a doctor. Like many others, I faced the challenge of finding somewhere to live, which was then, as it is now, a considerable problem. Finally, I found student lodgings in Munich-Gern with the help of a letting agent.
It was to be one of the most happiest turns of fate in my life, to have found a room in the same building as “Mrs Klotz” (alias Godela Orff)! The letting agent instructed me to ring Mrs Klotz’s doorbell and she would show me the room. Mrs Klotz opened the door and after letting me see the room, said: “If you’re clean, and tidy you can move in here. There is only one bathroom, which both tenants would have to share, and the utmost cleanliness is absolutely essential.” I obviously appeared “clean” enough and was allowed to move in. One of the first things she did, bursting with maternal pride, was to show me her son, Florian, who was six months old at the time and was in his cot on the balcony.
On the stairs of the building where my room was, I occasionally encountered an elderly gentleman, who was visiting his daughter. Each time, in his sonorous voice, he would ask me “how my work was going?” Gradually, it dawned on me that this “elderly gentleman” was the composer Carl Orff, and that Mrs Godela Klotz was his daughter, Godela Orff. Although I often listened to Orff-Schulwerk programmes, I was by no way involved in the contemporary music scene. My interests ran more to the great classics and performers.
We married in 1959! Carl Orff and my mother Elisabeth Büchtemann, nee Scholefield, a qualified, highly gifted concert pianist with perfect pitch, were our witnesses. Mrs Klotz became Mrs Godela Orff-Büchtemann – stage name Godela Orff. I adopted her seven-year-old son, who became Florian Christoph Büchtemann. I had a new family – and a new world had opened up for me.
My wife would frequently tell me anecdotes from her eventful life. From the highest flights to the deepest depths. It was not an easy life, although one might be forgiven for thinking that her famous name, incredible success on stage and in her subsequent professional career would guarantee a carefree life. Godela Orff had suffered some deep wounds in her life, and they would continue to pain her for the rest of her days.
Childhood and youth
Godela Orff’s early years were overshadowed by the separation of her parents when she was very young. Her mother left her with her father in Munich, choosing instead to pursue a career as a singer in Australia.
Godela spent her first years with her father in Maillingerstrasse in München-Neuhausen, in the house in which Carl Orff had been born. The flat was opposite a barracks, where very often the sounds of “loud drum rehearsals and off-key trumpet playing” were to be heard, as Godela Orff wrote in her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich (My Father Carl Orff and I).
These were “very lively and creative years”, wrote Godela Orff.
“Father would thump on the grand piano from eight in the morning until ten in the evening…” Often, he would ask his daughter for her opinion: “‘Do you like this chord, or this passage better?’ Then I would have to listen very carefully, and was proud when he valued my opinion. Which he really did – every time”, wrote Godela Orff in her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich.
“Eine Bach’sche Fuge konnte unter seinen Händen” (In his hands, a Bach fugue could ….)
All of Carl Orff’s early works were composed in the flat in Maillingerstrasse: Der Mond, Die Kluge, the Orff-Schulwerk, later alsoCarmina Burana.
Godela was seven years old when her father took her to see an opera at the Münchener Nationaltheater for the first time: a performance of Lohengrin.
Film document: Godela Orff recites Lohengrin
Godela’s health deteriorated visibly. Finally, she was sent to a small boarding school for girls in Switzerland, in the Bernese Oberland, to live with two elderly ladies who took loving care of her. Nevertheless, she was always homesick.
In Switzerland her artistic and literary talent was already apparent. She wrote several volumes of childhood and adolescent memoirs in a diary she lovingly decorated and illustrated. At the age of 13, she “published” a “Christmas play for my dear, dear …” (father) including very precise stage directions, illustrations, a spoken choir and the typical phrasing and repetitions that her father used.
Blissful summer holidays with her father in Munich and her grandparents in Unteralting
Die Gabe des Inspirierens (The gift of inspiration)
Klavierspiel mit der Großmutter (Playing piano with her grandmother)
“I saw him conduct only once”, writes Godela Orff. “I was twelve years old at the time. My father was rehearsing St. Luke’s Passion …”
“I only attended one rehearsal session, but I was utterly overwhelmed by his ability to inspire the performers and lift them above themselves. The atmosphere was very tense. Inside, they were rehearsing a passion, while outside SA units were bellowing the “Horst-Wessel-Lied”. My father told me that he had been gripped by an unspeakable dread – the mob was drowning our culture!”, wrote Godela Orff in her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich.
Collage of the audio file by Michael Rüggeberg.
“Ein einzige mal sah ich ihn dirigieren…” (I saw him conduct only once …)
Godela Orff came from a family of scholars, mathematicians, astronomers, officers, teachers and musicians.
In his 8-volume documentation “Carl Orff und sein Werk”, Carl Orff wrote: “The pre-eminent person, also in terms of his physique, was my grandfather, Carl von Orff. He retired from his commission as a major general to devote himself entirely to surveying, mathematics and astronomy.”
He continues: “An officer by tradition, he had to resign as a major general because of an eye ailment and after that lived only for his historical works. He was the author of the multi-volume “Handbuch für Gebiets- und Ortskunde des Königreiches Bayern”.
Godela Orff writes: “My grandmother had a intrinsically artistic nature, and had already attained concert proficiency as a pianist by the age of 12! It was therefore natural for her to teach her children Mia and Carl how to play the piano and the basics of harmony from the age of five.”
Carl Orff writes: “My father was an officer through and through. But his domestic circle, his wife and children, were more important to him than anything else. He played the viola in the string quartet. Leading his regiment in the war or in peacetime – he was always fair. His soldiers loved him.”
She was a highly gifted singer and teacher. An artist who “burned at both ends”, as Carl Orff said. She was also a brilliant teacher of speech and song, beloved by her pupils.
In Godela Orff, these many gifts and talents were united to the highest perfection. She was a gifted artist, a pioneering educator, a philosophical, religious woman, a loving, self-sacrificing mother. Like her mother, Alice Solscher, she was courageous. She always spoke her mind, even though it was not always what the person concerned wanted to hear. At the same time, she loved to laugh and had a wonderful sense of humour and a great deal of charm. Despite her many gifts, Godela Orff remained an exceptionally modest person, and would never display her intellectual superiority in her dealings with other people.
Godela Orff had the “sixth sense”. She knew in advance what would happen. This was especially true of her relationship with her father.
Her vision and gift of prophecy was also shown in her unerring judgement of handwriting. This played an important role, especially in my life!
World premiere of the Carmina Burana
Godela Orff accompanied her father Carl Orff to the world premiere of the Carmina Burana in Frankfurt am Main on 8 June 1937.
The second performance took place four days later. In her book, Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich, Godela Orff described it as follows: “The head people of the party, this was the Third Reich, are sitting in the auditorium. They will decide whether the piece will be approved. The first part fades… The conductor pauses, waiting or hoping for applause but the auditorium remains icily silent. Then, suddenly, from the proscenium box next to the stage a bright and very audible voice (which was, of course, the young Godela Orff) cries with obvious indignation, “Why aren’t the bastards clapping?” (meaning the party bigwigs whose job it was to decide the future of the piece). Breathless silence in the auditorium. This interjection deflates the tension in one fell swoop, and the applause surges alongside laughter. The performance has been saved.” This concert marked the start of the global success of Carmina Burana.
“Warum klatschen denn die Scheißkerle nicht! (Why aren’t the bastards clapping?)”
At the age of 16, Godela Orff returned home to her father. Her dream was to become a doctor, but her father lacked the funds to pay for university. Instead, he persuaded her to become an actor, and to apply for a scholarship at the State School of Acting in Munich. He wanted her to start earning an income as soon as possible. Carl Orff had recognised her acting talent from a very early age. Godela Orff had already performed on stage very successfully at school, and had also naturally taken the “leading roles”, as she said.
She followed her father’s advice and at the age of 16 started training to become an actor. She was accepted at the State School of Acting in Munich from a pool of 400 candidates.
This is a document from her apprenticeship: „Ich sollte einem Prüfungsgremium vorsprechen…(I had to audition for an examination committee…)”
A great acting career
Godela Orff enjoyed extraordinary success on stage as an actor. While still in her training phase, she was given leading roles at the Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel in Munich, and by the age of 18 had become a permanent member of this ensemble. Soon, she was playing the great classics at the Prinzregententheater.
The newspaper Augsburger Zeitung wrote in its review: “The young artist – only 18 years old – possesses to a high degree the art of the enchanted soul, and thanks to her strong instinct for the essence of a scene is one of the most promising talents among today’s young actors.”
“This Jenny Lind was decisive for the great success of the play” was the opinion of the Neue Augsburger Zeitung (24.10.1940). Godela Orff as Jenny Lind at the premiere of “Gastspiel in Kopenhagen” by Friedrich Forster at the Residenztheater in Munich.
Godela Orff conquers the press. Those who are fortunate enough to be sketched in a daily newspaper, like Münchner Abendblatt, have truly attracted public interest. Godela Orff had become famous overnight. Perhaps this was a source of irritation for her father, whom nobody in Munich knew then, as Godela Orff told me several times!
Godela Orff was only 20, and was playing the title role in Gerhard Hauptmann’s play of the same name, “Kollege Crampton”, at the Residenztheater which Godela Orff loved so dearly. The acoustics were excellent – “you could hear the quietest whisper”, she once said.
1941: One of her strongest performances: Prothoe in Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist at Münchener Staatsschauspiel theatre. The press wrote on 15.12.1941:
“A performance that deserves a very special mention is that of Prothoe by Godela Orff. To be a friend to Penthesilea not only calls for a will to serve. Prothoe, torn on the bridge between herself and the queen, between giving up and winning, is a true Kleistian character. To play this character demands a full dramatic resonance. Godela Orff found it and in the large circle of competing actors who were obviously inspired and delighted by this mighty play, emphasizing the dignity of the performance hot and bright in her person.”
Godela Orff as Agnes in Hebbel’s Agnes Bernauer
In his documentation “Carl Orff und sein Werk” (Carl Orff and his Work) (published by Hans Schneider, Tutzing), Carl Orff wrote: “My daughter was fortunate to be engaged by the Bayerisches Staatsschauspiel theatre immediately after graduating from drama school, and at this theatre she was supported and encouraged to take on larger parts. As early as her second year, she was given a leading and title role in Hebbel’s Agnes Bernauer.”
Premiere of Die Bernauerin
Godela Orff’s extraordinary theatre successes, especially “her” Agnes in Hebbel’s Agnes Bernauer, inspired her father to write a “Bavarian play, a festival play for Munich”. The daughter had inspired her father to write a new work – as she writes in her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich.
The press wrote: Godela Orff in the title role as Agnes at the premiere of Die Bernauerin on 14 June 1947, Württembergisches Staatstheater Stuttgart. The regional newspaper Schwäbische Landeszeitung covered the premiere on 20.06.1947 in Stuttgart, writing: “Godela Orff channelled the primeval mystery of Bavarian onomatopoeia in all its rhythmic flexibility and sonority in every single paragraph: she was a woman of Bernau who drew her power from the centuries-old Bavarian expression and dialect in a truly delightful embodiment of this role.”
For her interpretation of Agnes, wrote Godela Orff, it was important for the figure of Agnes to be formed entirely from ‘being’, based on her presence, without the ‘appearance’ of helpful outward facades. Agnes is an almost completely silent presence during the first part of the play, which demanded absolute concentration on the idea of ‘being there’, relying only on charisma. Godela Orff said:
Konzentration im „Da-Sein“ (Concentration on “being”)
Great success for Godela Orff and the ensemble!
It was the first world premiere after World War II on German soil – and for the first time in front of an international audience.
A piece of history: In 1947, two years after Germany lost World War II, Carl Orff’s “Die Bernauerin” was premiered. “DIE NEUE ZEITUNG, Eine Amerikanische Zeitung für die Deutsche Bevölkerung” (the American newspaper for the people of Germany) featured Godela Orff on its front page and wrote: “Godela Orff, the daughter of composer Carl Orff, performed the title role in her father’s new work, Die Bernauerin, in Stuttgart to great acclaim.” (Photo: Laun)
Godela Orff played Die Bernauerin for ten years in Munich at Prinzregententheater. It was here that the play was at long last performed as a festival play, just as her father had wished, wrote Godela Orff in her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich.
Journey to Agnes Bernauer in Straubing
Film document: Scenes from the Jutta Netzsch film, 1995: “To mark the 100th Birthday of Carl Orff”, Part 1 – Godela Orff and “Die Bernauerin”
When Godela Orff stepped on stage and the spotlight was on her, a murmur would go through the audience in appreciation of her beauty, she would say. There was complete silence in the auditorium. From then on she was no longer “Godela Orff”; instead, she identified herself utterly with her roles, shedding everything non-essential.
Godela Orff’s exceptional ability remember things helped her considerably in learning her roles. For example, she was able to memorise overnight a text that was completely unknown to her and, if a co-actor became indisposed, could play the lead role in a play the next day without further rehearsals.
Godela Orff leaves the stage
Despite her extraordinary success, Godela Orff retired from the stage. Even Gustav Gründgens’ offer of joining his ensemble in Berlin could not change her mind. Her mother, Alice Solscher, was also a member of the ensemble (playing the role of Frau Marthe in Goethe’s “Faust”, amongst other roles).
His daughter’s decision to retire from theatre was absolutely incomprehensible to Carl Orff. After her spectacular successes, he simply could not understand why his daughter did not want to continue her career. Instead, Godela Orff wanted to start a new life and follow her dream of enjoying family life with her husband, her son and her beloved animals.
But she was soon back in the spotlight!
Orff-Schulwerk: Live on television 1957-1959
The Bayerischer Rundfunk (BR) television station commissioned Godela Orff and Gunild Keetman, co-founder of the Orff-Schulwerk, to produce the world’s first live television series of the “Orff-Schulwerk: Music for Children”.
Teaching position at the Orff Institute in Salzburg 1969-1975
Godela Orff was commissioned by the Mozarteum University in Salzburg to set up a new department for “Speech Education and Recitation” in collaboration with the Orff-Schulwerk educational concept for music and dance. In her book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich, she writes: “And so suddenly I had become a lecturer! Without my 20 years’ experience on stage this would simply not have been possible. As there was no curriculum for ‘language with music’, I was free to let my imagination take control, to try out things, to improvise – this gave me great pleasure, as it did the students, who joined in all experiments with great enthusiasm. Finally and with a lot of hard work, we performed on stage – it was a success!”
Godela Orff on television
1979: Television production on SWR: “Ich trage einen großen Namen” (I have a famous name)
1992, 1993: Bavarian Television: three-part series “Unter unserem Himmel” (Under our sky)
2003: Bayern alpha: Interview with Dr. Ernst Emrich
2005: arte: Interview to mark the centenary of Carl Orff’s birth
Buch-, CD- und Hörbuchproduktionen
1992: 1st edition of Godela Orff – “Mein Vater und ich” (Piper)
The interest in this book by Godela Orff was so great that two further editions were published in rapid succession!
1995: 2nd edition of Godela Orff – Mein Vater und ich (Piper)
2008: 3rd edition of Godela Orff – Mein Vater und ich (Henschel)
1998: Godela Orff narrates and presents: Carl Orffs “Kleines Welttheater” Der Mond. (publisher Max Hieber KG)
Awarded the Leopold 1999 media prize by the Association of German Music Schools.
Audiobook Godela Orff – Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich. The author audibly described the emotions that moved her, what she experienced with her father. Includes music examples and Carl Orff’s eloquent renditions of his own works.
Godela Orff was repeatedly asked to read from her book. She did this gladly, including in Munich for the listeners of the Blind Association headed by chairwoman Livia Hofmann. In Berlin, too, a large crowd of listeners gathered around. Everyone wanted to experience Godela Orff in person. With her charisma, her musical style of reading, her quick-witted humour and humorous replies to the audience.
Readings at Schloss Elmau: The former head of Schloss Elmau invited Godela Orff to read from her book. Together with harpsichordist Anna Barbara Speckner, she improvised and delighted the listeners.
Another vivid memory was the performance of Yehudi Menuhin and Carl Orff at Schloss Elmau at a joint matinee!
Sprache der Musik (The Language of Music) – Godela Orff’s audio library
A historical recording: Godela Orff reads at the Salzburg Festival 1949.
To mark the 200th birthday of J.W. v. Goethe, the artist was invited to read from “Goethes Briefwechsel mit einem Kinde” (Goethe’s Correspondence with a Child) by Bettina von Arnim. In her Book Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich, she writes: “After the reading, during which I had the impression that I had reached and touched the audience with Bettina’s letters, my father said, ‘You didn’t read – you were Bettina – you two were one’. That is exactly what I had felt, too. And is it any wonder? Bettina’s life was shaped by her love for Goethe, and mine by my love for my father…”
The text is from the “Die Parthenon Bücher” edition, published by H. E. Günther & Co., Stuttgart, in 1947.
by Rainer Maria Rilke
This recording of “Die Blinde” (The blind woman) by Rainer Maria Rilke reveals the performer’s great interpretive artistry. Godela Orff spent many years occupied with the lives of blind people. With her sensitivity, the fine style of her speech and declamation, and her eagerness to reach out to those who cannot see, she also enriched the lives of these people.
“Bring light! Bring light! I screamed it in dreams.” Few will remain untouched by this cry from the reading…
The poem is read from “Das Buch der Bilder” by Reiner Maria Rilke, Insel-Verlag, Leipzig, 1928.
Godela Orff reads from the
by Hanna Hanisch
Godela Orff reads two stories from Hanna Hanisch’s “Drei-Minuten-Geschichten” (Three Minute Stories) with virtuosity and obvious pleasure. The prelude to the stories is the infectious polka “Mäuschenmusik” by the young composer Wilfried Hiller on piano, Karl Peinkofer on drums and others.
The stories were read from the Rowohlt Taschenbuch edition (1978).
Godela Orff reads from
Die kleine Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach
by Esther Meynell
With music by J.S. Bach
Godela Orff wrote the following about this recording:
“In 1930, the British writer Esther Meynell published The Little Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach, a very lively memoir of Anna Magdalena, who was married to the great cantor of the Thomasschule, Johann Sebastian Bach, for thirty years. She writes about his untiring devotion to music, about his severity towards himself and others, and his deep piety.
This book never fails to move and inspire me, and I have repeatedly read from it in public readings, from a version I abridged myself. It is a great pleasure to include the wonderful music of J.S. Bach on this CD, which enhances the pleasure of the text even further.”
“Love is the fulfilment of the law”. This sentence from the Luther Bible, which Bach repeatedly read to his family, seems to me to stand above the life of Anna Magdalena Bach with her unconditional devotion to her brilliant husband, her large family and his music.
This is a recording that you should listen to with your whole heart.
Text selected and interpreted by Godela Orff. Music: J.S. Bach. Music selected by Godela Orff, Michael Rüggeberg, Gerhard Büchtemann. Total running time: 62:15 minutes.
The text was read from the Esther Meynell’s book Die kleine Chronik der Anna Magdalena Bach , Koehlers Verlagsgesellschaft, Herford, 1985
Works and performers:
“Great Fantasia in G minor” (organ). BWV 542. Karl Richter performing on the organ of Jægersborg Church near Copenhagen,1964. D.G. 431 866-2. (1:09)
“Willst Du dein Herz mir schenken (Aria di Giovannini)” from the Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach.1966. BWV 518. Elly Ameling, deutsche harmonia mundi. GD 77150. (0:35)
“Brandenburg Concert No. 6” BWV 1051. Münchener Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter. Munich, Schloss Schleißheim,1970. DG 004400734147. (0:45)
Choral “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß” from the St Matthew Passion. BWV 244. Münchener Bach-Chor, Regensburger Domspatzen, Münchener Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter. Munich, Herkules-Saal, 1979. D.G 427704-2. (2:29)
Recitative (alto) “Ach, Golgatha” from the St Matthew Passion. BWV 244. Janet Baker (alto), Münchener Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter. Munich, Herkules-Saal, 1979. D.G 427704-2. (1:40)
“Menuet” from Suite No. 1 in C major. BWV 1066. The English Concert, Trevor Pinnock. Archive Prod. D.P. 423493-2. (0:47)
“Three-part Inventions C major”. BWV 788. Glenn Gould, piano. Moscow, 1957. Sony CB 751 CDM CP SMK 52685. (1:02)
“Fugue in B minor” (organ). BWV 544. Karl Richter performing on the organ of Jægersborg Church near Copenhagen,1967. D.G. 431866-2. (0:59)
Chorale “O Gott, du frommer Gott” (organ). BWV 767. Karl Richter performing on the organ of Jægersborg Church near Copenhagen,1969. D.G. 431 866-2. (1:05)
“Badinerie” from Suite No. 2, B minor. BWV 1067. Wolfgang Schulz, flute, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Karl Münchinger, 1986. Decca 440 255-2. (0:56)
“Prelude A minor” (organ). BWV 543. Karl Richter performing on the organ of Jægersborg Church near Copenhagen, 1967. D.G. 431 866-2 (1:34)
Chorale melody “Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel” (organ). BWV 650. Karl Richter performing on the organ of Jægersborg Church near Copenhagen, 1967. D.G. 431 866-2. (01:12)
“Contrapunctus 1” from The Art of the Fugue. BWV 1080. Juilliard String Quartet. Washington, D.C. 1987. Sony S 2 K 45 937. (01:33)
“Sinfonia” from the cantata “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis”. BWV 21. Münchener Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter. Munihc, Herkules-Saal, 1969. Archive Prod. 439 380-2. (1:02)
Chorale “Vor Deinen Thron tret’ ich hiermit” from The Art of the Fugue. BWV 1080. Juilliard String Quartet. Washington, D.C., 1987. Sony S 2 K 45 937. (1:09)
Choral “Magnificat”. BWV 243. Münchener Bach-Orchester, Karl Richter, 1962. D.G. 419 466-2 GGA. (1:01)
Chorale “Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder” from the Kreuzstab cantata “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen”. BWV 56. Münchener Bach-Chor, Münchener Bach-Orchester, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Karl Richter. Munich, Herkules-Saal, 1969. Archiv Prod. 439 395-2. (2:09)
Godela Orff, the architect
Godela Orff designed a house and adjacent studio for her son on the property in Unteralting that she had inherited from her father. The house was built according to ecological principles.
Godela Orff, the writer
Godela Orff wrote poetry and fairy tales, drew and made pottery models…
The story of “Anni und die Katze” (Annie and the Cat), “Das Rosenelflein” (The Rose Elf), “Der Jüngling und das Rehlein” (The Boy and the Fawn) – all of these lovely tales sadly remain unpublished, because that is how Godela Orff wanted it.
Godela Orff worked well into her last years on her book “Anni und die Katze”. Right up until the end, she would dictate new chapters for this book. Sadly, it remained unfinished. Modern-day readers, I am sure, would have loved this captivating book, and would have been inspired by the courage of the protagonist Anni as she sets out on new paths!
Her love of animals
Godela Orff loved animals from her earliest days. Particularly cats, but also her loyal companion “Dido”, an Alsatian shepherd dog. Later in life, she discovered the joy of Iceland ponies.
Philosophy, music and religion
Throughout her life, Godela Orff was interested in philosophy, music, religion and the final things in life. Nothing captivated her more than the manifold paths man can take to fathom the meaning of life.
Her library was packed with works about religious philosophy. She was interested in – and practiced – yoga as a spiritual mindset, as a source of power for the body and soul. She performed breathing techniques and exercise therapy. She shared her healing experiences in her reading of “Yoga für Sie” (yoga for you) by Felix Riemkasten for the library for the blind in Zurich. She also read many other great classics of world literature for the blind, including “Michael Kohlhaas” by Heinrich von Kleist.
Godela Orff also sought contact with Hans Küng, the great theologian; she read his publications, engaged with Hans Küng’s global ethic for international understanding between Christians, Jews and Islam. “Beat swords into ploughshares” – Hans Küng was a great believer in the message on the memorial in front of the UN headquarters in New York, and appealed to the world to lay down arms and give the hungry their bread.
Her many discussions on religious philosophy with her father delved deep into fascinating subjects. Throughout their lives both father and daughter were interested in questions of what came after death. St. Francis of Assisi was a role model for both. (see also the “Sonnengesang des Hl. Franziskus” (St. Francis’ Canticle of the Sun) by Carl Orff)
Ich hatte mich schon seit langem mit Philosophie…(I had long since immersed myself in philosophy…)
A key focus was also the creation of Carl Orff’s final work, De temporum fine Comoedia – Das Spiel vom Ende der Zeiten – Vigilia. Time and again, the father would invite his daughter to visit him in Dießen, to discuss this mystery play in which he examined essential questions of religion and philosophy. Carl Orff was familiar with his daughter’s profound insight – also in questions of religion and the final, most fundamental things in life.
Godela Orff guides listeners through De temporum fine Comoedia
Godela Orff wanted to open up this difficult and complex work to a wider audience. Working with composer and director Michael Rüggeberg, she oversaw an interpretation of the work on the basis of the premiere at the Salzburg Festival on 20 August 1973, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, directed by August Everding, and produced by Gerhart Lenssen.
Godela Orff guides listeners through De temporum fine Comoedia by Carl Orff
A farewell to her father
The final days of Carl Orff’s life began. Godela was with her father until his death.
Wenn ich sterbe, sollst Du bei mir sein (When I die, I want you to be by my side)
Visiting her son in California
In the mid-1990s, Godela Orff travelled to visit her son in California. She wanted to see Christoph’s new home and his house in Santa Barbara. I also flew over for Christmas and New Year in 1995/1996. We were treated to so many spectacular experiences with Christoph. He pulled out all the stops – he wanted us to see “everything” and explore what was important to him in his chosen home. We enjoyed days packed with unforgettable impressions. Here are a selection of documents from his Californian institute with Christoph’s comments:
We also visited the Pacific Ocean!
This is where this poignant picture was taken: mother and son gazing out over the endless expanse of the Pacific. I wonder whether the “seer” Godela Orff sensed that only four years later this photograph would be on the front page of a volume published in memory of her son, titled with her visionary message:
“Ultimately, we are looking up at heaven”
On New Year’s Eve 1995/1996 a thunderstorm broke over us. Was it a harbinger of the events that were to come? Thunder and lightning crashed around us, the rain poured down relentlessly. It was frightening. The real inferno was revealed the next morning: there was damage to the house, trees had fallen over, fields and flowerbeds were flooded. Christoph’s photograph shows some of the damage.
On 12 December 2001, Christoph Florian Büchtemann, the son she loved so much and above everything else, died in Berlin after suffering an incurable disease. For his devoted mother, this was the most painful thing in her life. But she endured this grief with her natural self-discipline and bravery. She didn’t want anyone to see how much she was suffering.
Christoph’s death also affected me profoundly, particularly after having the honour of accompanying him closely for the last six months of his struggle. Repeatedly, he would ask: “Papa, what is my outlook?” And when I replied that he needed to recover and get back to health, that would help him a little.
Her life draws to a close
Godela Orff wrote, drew and – contemplated … right up until her final days …
It was the months February until April 2013. Godela Off’s final weeks had come.
She was overshadowed by fear and questions of what was to come. It almost seemed as if old wounds had burst open, were bleeding again…
She spoke about her father and their relationship, and was consumed with the question of the transition from life to death …
It was my job to agree where it was appropriate and contradict where necessary. I did what was in my power to free her from her fears and torment!
Godela Orff passed away in the early evening of 6 April 2013.
Just like with her mother, Alice Solscher, who had asked me to be by her side as she passed from this world, it was my privilege to care for my wife until the moment she drew her final breath.
The death of Christoph Florian Büchtemann and the death of Godela Orff-Büchtemann have meant that the Orff stage has become empty.
Godela Orff has found her final resting place on the cemetery in Unteralting by Grafrath, in a grave in which the parents of Carl Orff and her son, Christoph Florian Büchtemann, also lie.
Engraved on the tombstone is Godela Orff’s philosophy:
“Der Tod ist die Befreiung, die Errettung, die Erlösung.” (Death is liberation, salvation and redemption)
And sometimes in the evening, a cat comes to sit on the stone …
And sometimes in the evening, I hear deep within me the final bass recitative from the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach …
“In the evening, when it was cool, Adam’s fall was manifest… In the evening the dove returned, and carried an olive branch in its mouth. Peace is now made with God, for Jesus has endured his cross. His body comes to rest…”
Done! is what Godela Orff spontaneously cried after she completed her book. This photograph was intended to be printed on the back cover of her book: Mein Vater Carl Orff und ich, but the publisher objected. So here it is now, in its right place!