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Schwarzkopf, Dame (Olga Maria) Elisabeth (Friederike)

Schwarzkopf, Dame (Olga Maria) Elisabeth (Friederike)

Schwarzkopf, Dame (Olga Maria) Elisabeth (Friederike), celebrated German-born English soprano; b. Jarotschin, near Posen, Dec. 9, 1915. She studied with Lula Mysz-Gmeiner at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. She made her operatic debut as a Flower Maiden in Parsifal at the Berlin Städtische Oper (April 17, 1938), and then studied with Maria Ivogün while continuing on its roster, appearing in more important roles from 1941. In 1942 she made her debut as a lieder artist in Vienna, and also sang for the first time at the State Opera there as Zerbinetta, remaining on its roster until the Nazis closed the theater in 1944. Having registered as a member of the German Nazi Party in 1940, Schwarzkopf had to be de-Nazified by the Allies after the end of World War II. In 1946 she rejoined the Vienna State Opera and appeared as Donna Elvira during its visit to London’s Covent Garden in 1947; subsequently sang at Covent Garden regularly until 1951. In 1947 she made her first appearance at the Salzburg Festival as Susanna; also sang regularly at Milan’s La Scala (1948–63). Furtwängler invited her to sing in his performance of the Beethoven 9th Sym. at the reopening celebrations of the Bayreuth Festival in 1951. She then created the role of Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Venice on Sept. 11, 1951. On Oct. 25, 1953, she gave her first recital at N.Y.’s Carnegie Hall; made her U.S. operatic debut as the Marschallin with the San Francisco Opera on Sept. 20, 1955. On Oct. 13, 1964, she made her belated Metropolitan Opera debut in N.Y. in the same role, continuing on its roster until 1966. In 1975 she made a farewell tour of the U.S. as a concert singer. She married Walter Legge in 1953 and became a naturalized British subject. She ed. his memoir, On and Off the Record (N.Y, 1982; second ed., 1988). In 1992 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In addition to her acclaimed Mozart and Strauss roles, she was also admired in Viennese operetta. As an interpreter of lieder, she was incomparable.


A. Jefferson, E. S. (London, 1995); A. Sanders and J. Steane, E. S.: A Career on Record (Portland, Ore., 1996).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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