Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

German singer (soprano)
Date of Birth: 09.12.1915
Country: Germany

Content:
  1. Biography of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf
  2. Early Life and Education
  3. Early Career
  4. International Recognition
  5. Later Years

Biography of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf

Early Life and Education

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf was born on December 9, 1915, in the Polish town of Jarocin, near Poznan. From a young age, she had a passion for music and participated in small productions in the rural school near Legnica, another Polish town. Her father, a teacher of Greek and Latin, was her inspiration and encouraged her love for music. She even performed all the female roles in a student-composed opera. It was clear that becoming an artist was her life goal. Elizabeth moved to Berlin and enrolled in the prestigious Hochschule für Musik, which was considered the most reputable music school in Germany at the time. She was accepted into the class of the renowned singer Lula Mys-Gmeiner, who initially believed she had a mezzo-soprano voice. This misjudgment almost resulted in Elizabeth losing her voice. However, after two years, other vocal teachers discovered that she had a coloratura soprano voice, and her voice instantly became more confident and powerful.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Early Career

During her time at the conservatory, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf not only focused on her vocal studies but also excelled in piano and viola. She sang in the choir, played the glockenspiel in the student orchestra, performed in chamber ensembles, and even tried her hand at composing. In 1938, she graduated from the Berlin Hochschule für Musik. Shortly after, she was urgently needed by the Berlin State Opera to perform the role of a flower girl in Wagner's "Parsifal." Despite having only a day to learn the role, she impressed both the audience and the theater's administration. However, she was mainly assigned minor roles during her time at the opera, only occasionally being given the opportunity to perform as a lead. It was during a performance of "Der Rosenkavalier" where she portrayed Sophie that the famous singer Maria Ivogün noticed her talent and began mentoring her. Ivogün taught her stage techniques, expanded her repertoire, introduced her to the world of chamber vocal music, and ignited her passion for it. After working with Ivogün, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf started gaining more recognition and became a leading soloist at the Vienna State Opera.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

International Recognition

In the 1950s, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf settled in London and frequently performed at the Covent Garden Theatre. It was there that she met the renowned Russian composer and pianist Nikolai Medtner. They recorded a series of romances together and performed his compositions in concerts. In 1951, she participated in the Bayreuth Festival alongside Wilhelm Furtwängler, performing Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Richard Wagner's "Das Rheingold" in a revolutionary production by Wieland Wagner. She also appeared in Stravinsky's "The Rake's Progress," conducted by the composer himself. The La Scala Theatre entrusted her with the role of Melisande in Debussy's "Pelléas et Mélisande" on the opera's fiftieth anniversary. She collaborated with renowned conductors such as Furtwängler, Edwin Fischer, Glenn Gould, and Walter Gieseking, recording works by Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, Franz Schubert, and Mozart. In 1955, she received the Golden Orpheus Prize from Arturo Toscanini.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Later Years

In the 1970s, after the death of her husband Walter Legge, Elizabeth Schwarzkopf retired from the stage and dedicated herself entirely to song and romance. She focused on the lieder repertoire of Richard Strauss but also performed works by Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, Wagner, Brahms, and Wolf. She gave farewell concerts in New York, Hamburg, Paris, and Vienna before leaving the stage. Despite no longer performing, she continued to teach vocal pedagogy and held seminars and courses for young singers around Europe. Elizabeth Schwarzkopf believed that teaching was a continuation of singing and that she was still working on beauty, authenticity of sound, stylistic accuracy, and expressiveness, just as she had done throughout her career. She passed away on August 3, 2006, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

© BIOGRAPHS