Lehmann, Lilli

views updated Jun 08 2018

Lehmann, Lilli

Lehmann, Lilli, celebrated German soprano, sister of Marie Lehmann; b. Würzburg, Nov. 24, 1848; d. Berlin, May 16, 1929. Her father, August Lehmann, was a singer. Her mother, Marie Loew (1807-83), who had sung leading soprano roles and had also appeared as a harpist at the Kassel Opera under Spohr, became harpist at the National Theater in Prague in 1853, and there Lehmann spent her girlhood. At the age of 6 she began to study piano with Cölestin Müller, and at 12 progressed so far that she was able to act as accompanist to her mother, who was her only singing teacher. She made her professional debut in Prague on Oct. 20, 1865, as the First Page in Oie Zauberflöte; then sang in Danzig (1868) and Leipzig (1869-70). In the meantime, she made her first appearance at the Berlin Royal Opera as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots (Aug. 31, 1869); then joined its roster (1870) and established herself as a brilliant coloratura. During the summer of 1875 she was in Bayreuth, and was coached by Wagner himself in the parts of Wöglinde (Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung), Helmwige, and the Forest Bird; these roles she created at the Bayreuth Festival the following summer. She then returned to Berlin under a life contract with the RoyalOpera; she was given limited leaves of absence, which enabled her to appear in the principal German cities, in Stockholm (1878), in London (debut as Violetta, June 3, 1880), and in Vienna (1882). She made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. on Nov. 25, 1885, as Carmen; 5 days later she sang Brünnhilde in Die Walküre; then sang virtually all the Wagner roles through subsequent seasons until 1890; her last season there was 1898-99; she also appeared as Norma, Aida, Donna Anna, Fidelio, etc. She sang Isolde at the American premiere of Tristan und Isolde (Dec. 1, 1886), and appeared in Italian opera with the De Reszkes and Lassalle during the season of 1891-92. In the meantime, her contract with the Berlin Royal Opera was canceled (1889), owing to her protracted absence, and it required the intervention of Kaiser Wilhelm II to reinstate her (1891). In 1896 she sang the 3 Br¨nnhildes at the Bayreuth Festival. Her great admiration for Mozart caused her to take an active part in the annual Festivals held at Salzburg (1901-10), where she was artistic director. Her operatic repertoire comprised 170 roles in 114 operas (German, Italian, and French). She possessed in the highest degree all the requisite qualities of a great interpreter; she had a boundless capacity for work, a glorious voice, and impeccable technique; she knew how to subordinate her fiery temperament to artistic taste; on the stage she had plasticity of pose, grace of movement, and regal presence; her ability to project her interpretation with conviction to audiences in different countries was not the least factor in her universal success. Although she was celebrated chiefly as an opera singer, she was equally fine as an interpreter of German lieder; she gave recitals concurrently with her operatic appearances, and continued them until her retirement in 1920; her repertoire of songs exceeded 600. She was also a successful teacher; among her pupils were Geraldine Farrar and Olive Fremstad. On Feb. 24, 1888, in N.Y. she married Paul Kalisch , with whom she often sang in opera in subsequent years. They later separated, but never divorced. After her death, Kalisch inherited her manor at Salzkammergut, and remained there until his death in 1946, at the age of 90. Lehmann authored Meine Gesangskunst (Berlin, 1902; Eng. ed., 1902, as How to Sing-, 3rd ed., rev. and supplemented, 1924 by C. Willenbücher); Studie zu Fidelio (Leipzig, 1904); Mein Weg, autobiography (Leipzig, 1913; second ed., 1920; Eng. ed., 1914, as My Path through Life).


J. Wagenmann, L. L.s Geheimnis der Stimmbänder (Berlin, 1905; second ed., 1926); L. Andro, L L. (Berlin, 1907).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

Lehmann, Lilli

views updated May 21 2018

Lehmann, Lilli (b Würzburg, 1848; d Berlin, 1929). Ger. soprano. Childhood in Prague: studied pf. at 6 and at 12 was acc. to her mother, a sop., who also taught her singing. Début Prague 1865 as 1st Boy in Die Zauberflöte. Member, Berlin Opera 1869–85 (début as Marguerite de Valois in Les Huguenots), singing lyric and coloratura roles. At first Bayreuth Fest. 1876 sang Woglinde, Helmwige, and Waldvogel (Wood Bird) in The Ring. London début 1880. Sang Isolde at CG 1884 cond. Richter. Début NY Met 1885. Was first Amer. Isolde (1886) and Brünnhilde in Siegfried (1887) and Götterdämmerung (1888). On return to Ger. in 1889 was banned from all opera by Kaiser because she had overstayed her leave. Ban lifted 1891. Excelled as Mozart singer and sang at Salzburg Fest. 1905, later becoming art. dir. Returned to Met 1891–2 and 1898–9. Sang Isolde in Vienna 1909 and continued recitals until 1920. Was superb actress and her vocal and dramatic range covered Wagner to Bellini, Mozart, and Beethoven; also Suppé and Offenbach—in all, 170 roles in 119 operas. Taught for nearly 40 years, pupils incl. Farrar and Fremstad. Author and translator of several books. Autobiography My Path Through Life (NY and London 1914, 1977).