Rethberg, Elisabeth (real name, Lisbeth Sattler)

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Rethberg, Elisabeth (real name, Lisbeth Sattler)

Rethberg, Elisabeth (real name, Lisbeth Sattler) , outstanding German-American soprano; b. Schwarzenberg, Sept. 22, 1894; d. Yorktown Heights, N.Y., June 6, 1976. She studied at the Dresden Cons. and with Otto Watrin. She made her operatic debut as Arsena in Der Zigeunerbaron at the Dresden Court Opera (1915); continued to sing there when it became the State Opera in 1918. She then made her U.S. debut as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Nov. 22, 1922, remaining one of its most celebrated artists until her farewell performance there in that same role on March 6, 1942. She subsequently embarked on a grand concert tour with Ezio Pinza in the U.S., Europe, and Australia; their close association resulted in a lawsuit for alienation of affection brought by Pinza’s wife against her, but the court action was not pursued. Throughout her operatic career, Rethberg sang in many of the major music centers in Italy; also appeared at the Salzburg Festivals and at London’s Covent Garden (1925; 1934–39). She excelled in both the German and Italian repertoires; among her memorable roles were Mozart’s Countess, Donna Anna, Pamina, Constanze, and Donna Elvira; Verdi’s Aida, the 2 Leonoras, Amelia, Desdemona, and Maria Boccanegra; and Wagner’s Eva, Elisabeth, Sieglinde, and Elsa; also created the title role in Strauss’s Die ägyptische Helena (Dresden, June 6, 1928). Rethberg was married twice: first to Ernst Albert Dormann, and then to George Cehanovsky, whom she married in 1956.


H. Henschel and E. Friedrich, E. R.: Ihr Leben und Künstlertum (Schwarzenberg, 1928).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire