Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth (1915–)

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Schwarzkopf, Elisabeth (1915–)

German soprano. Name variations: Elisabeth Legge-Schwarzkopf. Born Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dec 9, 1915, in Jarotschin near Posen, Germany (now Jarocin near Poznán, Poland); studied at Hochschule für Musik in Berlin, 1934–38; m. Walter Legge (1906–1979, artistic director of EMI Records), 1953.

One of the great singers of the post-war era, acclaimed for performances of Mozart and Strauss, made debut as 2nd Flower Maiden at Berlin's Municipal Opera (1938) in Parsifal; in following season (1938–39), added 16 parts to a growing repertory, the most important being Frasquita in Carmen and Musetta in La Bohème; joined Nazi Party (1940); began studying with Maria Ivogün and graduated to starring roles, in operas and operettas, including Adele in Die Fledermaus; began giving recitals in Berlin's Beethoven Saal (1942), the beginning of what would become one of the great careers of Lieder singing; joined Vienna State Opera (1944) and appeared in Entführung aus dem Serail (Abduction from the Seraglio), La Bohème, and Der Freischütz; fled Vienna at time of Germany's surrender (1945); declared de-Nazified (1947), was free to resume career; traveled to London with Vienna State Opera (1946); with urging of Walter Legge, began singing roles appro priate to her voice, including Agathe in Der Freitschütz and Countess in Le nozze di Figaro; joined London's Covent Garden Opera Co. (1948), remaining with it for 5 seasons; performed on a regular basis at La Scala (1948–63); originated role of Anne Trulove in Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, which premiered in Venice's Teatro Fenice (1951) and participated in world premiere of Orff's Trionfo d'Afrodite at La Scala (1953); concentrated for next 15 years on 3 Mozart heroines (Fiordiligi, Donna Elvira, and Countess Almaviva), 2 Richard Strauss roles (Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier and Countess in Capriccio), and Alice in Verdi's Falstaff (1955–70); also sang in several operetta classics, particularly Die Fledermaus and Die lustige witwe (The Merry Widow); recordings remain classics; made US debut with a Lieder recital at NY's Town Hall (1953); made US operatic debut as the Marschallin (1955) with San Francisco Opera and sang there to great success for 10 years; debuted at Metropolitan Opera (1964) as the Marschallin; at Carnegie Hall, gave last opera performance in America (1972); made farewell recital tour of US (1975) and gave last Liederabend in Zurich (1979). Awarded Federal Republic of Germany's Grosses Bundesverdienstkreuz (Large Cross of Achievement) as well as its coveted Pour le Mérite; named Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) by Queen Elizabeth II (1992).

See also Alan Jefferson, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (Northeastern U. Press, 1996); and Women in World History.