Schwarzkopf* 在飛機上看到這則新聞,非常驚訝。(當天紐約時報照片還登錯,隔天才公告更改)

Published: August 4, 2006

Correction Appended

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the German-born soprano whose interpretations of Strauss and Mozart made her one of the most dazzling artists of her time, died yesterday at her home in Austria. She was 90.Her death was reported by Austrian state television. Citing a funeral home director, the broadcaster, ORF, said Miss Schwarzkopf had died in the town of Schruns in Austria’s westernmost province, Vorarlberg. No cause of death was given.

To her legions of admirers, Miss Schwarzkopf was a peerless interpreter of Strauss’s Marschallin, Mozart’s Donna Elvira and other operatic roles. But her image was tarnished in her later years by revelations that she had lied about the extent of her association with the Nazis during World War II.

Not only had she performed for the Nazis, it was learned, but she had also been a member of the party. In her defense, she said that for an artist needing work, joining the party had been “akin to joining a union.”

For a singer of such unquestionable stature, Miss Schwarzkopf’s work was controversial. In her prime, she possessed a radiant lyric soprano voice, impressive technical agility and exceptional understanding of style. From the 1950’s until the 1970’s, she was for many listeners the high priestess of the lieder recital, a sublime artist who brought textual nuance, interpretive subtlety and elegant musicianship to her work.

But others found her interpretations calculated, mannered and arch (the “Prussian perfectionist,” one critic called her), and complained that in trying to add textual vitality, Miss Schwarzkopf resorted to crooning and half-spoken dramatic effects.

Connoisseurs and critics could be surprisingly divided about her basic vocal gifts.

Will Crutchfield, reviewing some live recordings of Miss Schwarzkopf in recital, wrote in The New York Times in 1990: “It was always clear that she had a superior voice (a smooth, glamorous lyric soprano) and superior technical command.” Yet Peter G. Davis, writing in The Times in 1981, described her career as “a triumph of intelligence and willpower over what was basically an unremarkable voice.”

The consensus, however, was that in roles like the Marschallin and other Strauss heroines (Ariadne in “Ariadne auf Naxos,” the countess in “Capriccio”), as well as Mozart’s Fiordiligi and Countess Almaviva and Wagner’s Eva and Elsa, she could sing incomparably, with shimmering tone and richness and charismatic presence.

She was an uncommonly beautiful woman, despite a visible gap between her two front teeth that she never bothered to correct, with light hair and deep-set gray eyes. For a time in her younger years she pursued a career as a film actress and might have succeeded had she continued.

A hard-working, self-challenging singer, she performed 74 roles in 53 operas, including Anne Trulove in the world premiere of Stravinsky’s “Rake’s Progress” in Venice in 1951. Her lieder repertory included hundreds of songs by Schubert, Schumann, Mozart and Strauss, and she was a pioneering champion of the songs of Hugo Wolf, which she sang with insight and affecting beauty.

Olga Maria Elisabeth Frederike Schwarzkopf was born on Dec. 9, 1915, in Jarotschin, Germany, in what is now west-central Poland. Both her parents were Prussian. Friedrich Schwarzkopf, her father, a classics schoolmaster, was an easygoing intellectual. Her mother, the former Elisabeth Frohling, was an efficient homemaker who took charge of her adored only child’s education and budding musical career.

Friedrich Schwarzkopf’s work as a teacher necessitated that the family move several times. When Elisabeth was 13, they settled in Magdeburg, Germany, where she studied piano, guitar, viola and organ and developed a naturally high, light voice that kept her in demand for concerts at school and local amateur performances.

The family moved to Berlin in 1933, the year Hitler came to power. Miss Schwarzkopf attended the Berlin Royal Augusta School and later won admission to the Hochschule für Musik. In 1934, before beginning her formal training, she won a grant from the League of National Socialist Students for a cycling and camping trip to England, where she learned English. She retained a fondness for the country, which after the war embraced her as an artist and made her a Dame of the British Empire in 1992.

At the music school, students were required to attend daily lectures on Hitler’s National Socialist movement, and in 1935, when she was nearly 20, Miss Schwarzkopf joined the student association of the National Socialist Party. Alan Jefferson, a Schwarzkopf biographer, said she became führerin of the student organization and that one of her responsibilities as ideological leader was to “keep an eye on other students.”

Her teacher at the Hochschule für Musik, Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, though distinguished in her field, inexplicably believed that Miss Schwarzkopf should be a contralto. It was not until after her formal training, in 1938, when she began singing with the Berlin State Opera, that Miss Schwarzkopf came into her own vocally.

During this time she gained a reputation as a singer fiercely determined to leap from the small roles typically assigned a newcomer into substantive parts. The director of the company, Wilhelm Rode, had won the favor of Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda minister. One reason Miss Schwarzkopf later gave for cooperating with the Nazis was that it was incumbent on aspiring singers in the company to support the party.

But until the 1980’s, she maintained that she had never officially joined the Nazi Party. She denied having done so in three Allied questionnaires in 1945, a time during the occupation when former party members were usually barred from public performance in Germany.

In 1982, however, a music historian at the University of Vienna, Oliver Rathkolb, published a doctoral dissertation that revealed details of her party membership. The information had come from documents discovered in the Allied Denazification Bureau in Vienna and subsequently moved to the National Archives in Washington.

According to these records, Miss Schwarzkopf applied for membership on Jan. 26, 1940, and was accepted on March 1 of that year, becoming Nazi member No. 7548960. Scholars and authors have since placed her application for party membership even earlier.

In an interview with The Times in 1983, Miss Schwarzkopf denied she had been a party member. But when told of these documents by The Times, she admitted that she had joined the party. “We thought nothing of it,” she said. “We just did it.” In a letter to The Times, she expanded on her explanation: “It was akin to joining a union, and exactly for the same reason: to have a job.”

In other interviews, she quoted in her defense the first line of Tosca’s famous aria: “Vissi d’arte,” which translates, “I lived for art.”

Discussion of her Nazi past re-emerged briefly in connection with tributes to her on her 80th birthday. Mr. Jefferson’s biography, “Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,” which came out at the time, raised debate about her wartime role, depicting her as an ambitious singer who was focused on furthering her career.

As a Nazi, Miss Schwarzkopf gave performances at party functions and sang for Waffen SS troops at the front. Some researchers believe she became a member of Goebbels’s Reichstheaterkammer, working in the propaganda ministry and appearing in some films.

Still, if she had hoped that party affiliation would quickly advance her career at the Berlin State Opera, it did not work as planned. She was still expected to sing, sometimes nightly, bit roles in “Carmen,” “Die Fledermaus” and frothy operettas.

Her breakthrough came with the dauntingly difficult coloratura role of Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos,” which she first sang in late 1940. Her performance won the attention of Maria Ivogün, a noted exponent of the role. Miss Ivogün was so impressed, she took on Miss Schwarzkopf as a private student, coaching her in the high soprano repertory, and training her as a lieder singer. Miss Schwarzkopf was soon engaged by the Vienna State Opera.

She realized that her future lay with the lyric soprano repertory. Engagements followed at the first postwar Salzburg Festival in 1947, where she worked with the conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler, and in subsequent summers, when she formed a close working relationship with the conductor Herbert von Karajan. She also toured with the Vienna State Opera in 1947, traveling to London, where she performed in “Don Giovanni” and “Fidelio” at Covent Garden.

The London performances were an enormous success, and she was invited to join the newly founded Covent Garden company. She sang with the company for the next five years, performing not just her German repertory but also Violetta, Mimi, Gilda, and Massenet’s Manon, all in English.

Her career and repertory choices were now being shaped by Walter Legge, then a music administrator and critic. Born in London in 1906, Legge had no formal training in music but was musically astute. He had been an assistant to Sir Thomas Beecham and was largely responsible for forming the Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus.

After the war, Legge worked mainly for recording companies. It was during a scouting trip to Vienna in search of new talent for EMI Records that the severe-looking, bespectacled Legge first heard Miss Schwarzkopf in an audition. Thus began an artistic partnership that grew into a life partnership. Legge, then divorced from his first wife, Nancy Evans, a mezzo-soprano, married Miss Schwarzkopf in 1953.

Opinion is divided about the effect Legge had on Miss Schwarzkopf as an artist. He tended to treat her as a musical and intellectual inferior. He was capable of berating her in public when she failed to meet his approval.

But he introduced her to a wealth of repertory, especially the songs of Hugo Wolf, and as artistic director of EMI Records, he supervised her recordings, coaching her in detail and ensuring that the engineers captured her voice at its best. Given Miss Schwarzkopf’s association with the Nazis, there was some trepidation about launching her American career. Her debut in the United States was delayed until October 1953, but that performance, a single sold-out song recital at Town Hall in New York, captivated the critics.

This was followed in late 1954 by an American tour, which ended back at Town Hall. A critic for Musical America wrote that Miss Schwarzkopf’s singing at Town Hall had “displayed the exquisite finish, technical mastery and interpretive felicity that had marked her debut recital here last season.”

In the fall of 1956 she sang a recital at Carnegie Hall. It was the first time the hall had ever been sold out for a program of German lieder.

Miss Schwarzkopf’s American operatic debut came in 1955 with the San Francisco Opera as the Marschallin. Mildred Norton, a critic for The Saturday Review, reported that a capacity audience had saluted a “memorable new Princess Werdenberg.” Miss Schwarzkopf, she wrote, was “a poised and vibrant new personality with a vocal radiance and a personal grace.”

Her debut at the Metropolitan Opera did not occur until October 1964, again as the Marschallin. Though Raymond Erickson, a critic for The Times, noted less freshness and bloom in Miss Schwarzkopf’s voice (she was nearly 49), he said she had “conquered her listeners, and the roar that filled the house when she took her bows must be the kind that the most vain prima donna could ask for.”

Outside the Metropolitan Opera House, there were scattered protests over her wartime career, and Miss Schwarzkopf had a chilly relationship with the Met’s general manager Rudolf Bing, an Austrian-born Jew. Besides her six performances of the Marschallin that debut season, she sang only one more time at the Met, a Donna Elvira in 1966.

But she performed frequently in New York in recital and with orchestras and continued to win devoted admirers around the world. Many of her EMI recordings became immediate classics. Among them were her Mozart song album with the pianist Walter Gieseking and her Schubert song album with the pianist Edwin Fischer, both recorded in 1952; her 1957 recording of “Rosenkavalier,” conducted by Karajan, and, one of her finest achievements, her 1959 recording of “Capriccio,” conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch.

As her career slowed, she began giving master classes, usually teaming with Legge, gaining a reputation as an insightful but almost impossibly exacting coach. In 1977-78, she embarked on a swan song recital tour, mostly accompanied by the pianist Geoffrey Parsons, who was her partner for her official farewell recital in Zurich on March 19, 1979. Two days later, Legge, who had become embittered that his talents were no longer sought by recording companies, died of a heart attack at 72.

Miss Schwarzkopf leaves no immediate survivors. Asked once whether she regretted having had no children, she replied, “I have 500 children, the songs I sing.”

Correction: August 5, 2006

A picture yesterday with an obituary of the soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was published in error. It showed Anneliese Rothenberger — not Miss Schwarzkopf — in the role of Sophie from “Der Rosenkavalier,” a 1962 film adaptation of the Richard Strauss opera. The Salzburg Festival mounted that production, in which Miss Schwarzkopf had the role of the Marschallin, and originally distributed the photograph with the incorrect information. A picture of Miss Schwarzkopf appears today on Page C10. The obituary also misspelled the surname of a music critic for The New York Times who reviewed Miss Schwarzkopf’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1964. He was Raymond Ericson, not Erickson.

Daniel J. Wakin contributed reporting for this obituary.


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