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Schröder-Devrient, Wilhelmine (1804–1860)

Schröder-Devrient, Wilhelmine (1804–1860)

German soprano. Name variations: Wilhelmine Schroeder-Devrient. Born on December 6, 1804, in Hamburg, Germany; died on January 26, 1860, in Coburg; daughter of Friedrich Schröder (a singer) and Antoinette Sophie (Bürger) Schröder (1781–1868), an actress known as Sophie Schröder; studied with her mother and father in Hamburg; studied with Mozatti in Vienna; married Karl Devrient, in 1823 (divorced or separated 1828); married Herr Van Döring (divorced before 1850); married Baron von Bock, in 1850; children: (first marriage) four.

Made debut as Pamina in Vienna (1821); sang at the Dresden Court Opera (1823–47); toured Europe until her retirement (1856).

Until she was 17, Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient was trained as an actress by her mother, German actress Sophie Schröder (1781–1868), who excelled in tragic roles. At that time, Schröder-Devrient had a remarkable success as Leonore in Fidelio. Beethoven, who took note of her acting, offered to write an opera for her. Since the composer was by then completely deaf, her acting had inspired him more than her singing, and dramatic roles would remain her forte. Goethe was also a fan of Schröder-Devrient, as was the composer Wagner.

During her early career, she sang mostly in Vienna, Berlin, Dresden, and Paris, but later she appeared frequently in London. Her private life was stressful and unsettled. Married three times, she was also involved in numerous love affairs. Personal criticism caused Schröder-Devrient un-told pain. In Budapest, she once rushed off the stage and collapsed in her dressing room, upset over a fan's comments. Confronting the man, she invited him to send onstage a serene women whose life he admired and have her project passion. "When I have to represent a passion," she told him, "I must possess one, for I can only be carried away by what I feel with great intensity." Her first marriage lasted five years, during which time she had four children. Her second marriage, to a Saxon officer, was brief, but her third marriage proved more stable. Schröder-Devrient was a powerful and passionate singer much admired in her day.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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