Schröder-Devrient, Wilhelmine, celebrated
German soprano; b. Hamburg, Dec. 6, 1804; d. Coburg, Jan. 26, 1860. She received early training for the stage from her father, Friedrich Schröder (1744–1816), a baritone, and from her mother, Antoinette Sophie Bürger, a well-known actress; she herself played children’s parts and was an actress until her 17th year. After the death of her father, she followed her mother to Vienna, where she studied with Mozatti. She made her operatic debut at the Kärnthnertortheater in Vienna on Jan. 20, 1821, as Pamina, then sang Agathe in Der Freischütz under Weber’s direction (Vienna, March 7, 1822). When Fidelio was revived in Vienna in 1822, she sang Leonore in the presence of Beethoven (Nov. 3, 1822). In 1822 she sang in Dresden, and then was a member of its court opera from 1823 to 1847, where she received additional training from the chorus master, Aloys Mieksch. She also made guest appearances in Berlin (1828), Paris (1830–32), and London (1832–33; 1837); likewise won renown as a concert artist, continuing to make appearances in this capacity in Germany until 1856. She was one of the great singing actresses of her era, numbering among her many fine roles Donna Anna, Euryanthe, Norma, Rossini’s Desdemona, Amina, and Lady Macbeth. Wagner held her in high esteem and chose her to create the roles of Adriano Colonna in Rienzi (Dresden, Oct. 20, 1842), Senta in Der fliegende Holländer (Dresden, Jan. 2, 1843), and Venus in Tannhäuser (Dresden, Oct. 19, 1845). She was married 3 times: her first husband was the actor Karl Devrient, whom she divorced in 1828; her second husband, a Saxon officer named Von Döring, cheated her out of her earnings, and she likewise divorced him; her third husband was the Livonian baron Von Bock, whom she married in 1850. A purported autobiography, publ, anonymously in many eds. since about 1870 as Aus den Memoiren einer Sängerin or Mémoires d’une chanteuse allemande, is in fact a pornographic fantasy whose real author is unknown. A novel based on her life by Eva von Baudissin, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient: Der Schicksalsweg einer grossen Künstlerin, was publ, in Berlin in 1937.
C. von Glümer, Erinnerungen an W. S.-D.(Leipzig, 1862); A. von Wolzogen, W. S.-D. (Leipzig, 1863); C. Hagemann, W. S.-D.(Berlin, 1904; second ed., 1947); J. Bab, Die D.s (Berlin, 1932).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire