Soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Dies At 90

Celebrated opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf died Aug. 3 at her home in Schruns, Austria, at age 90. No cause of death was given.

Celebrated opera singer Elisabeth Schwarzkopf died Aug. 3 at her home in Schruns, Austria, at age 90. No cause of death was given. The vocalist was born in 1915 in the town of Jarocin (then Germany, now Poland) to a Prussian family. At age 13, Schwarzkopf and her family settled in Germany; in 1933, her family moved again to Berlin. Not long after, she began attending the prestigious Hoschschule fur Musik.

At the school, students attended mandatory daily lectures on Hitler's and National Socialism, and in 1935 Schwarzkopf enrolled in the Nazis' student organization -- an association that was to blacken her reputation for decades to come.

Scholars charge that she also became part of Joseph Goebbels' Reichstheaterkammer in the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda and that she made films for Goebbels. She also often gave performances at Nazi events and sang for SS troops. Schwarzkopf asserted until the 1980s that she had never officially joined the party, and famously shrugged off her early involvement with the Nazis as a move "akin to joining a union."

However, her talents on both the opera stage and as a recitalist performing the art songs called lieder were legendary. The coloratura soprano was famed for her interpretations of Strauss (particularly for her turns as the Marschallin in his opera Der Rosenkavalier and Countess Madeleine in Capriccio), Mozart (including roles in Don Giovanni, Le Nozze di Figaro and Cosi fan tutte), Hugo Wolf and Franz Lehar, among others. Stravinsky wrote the role of Anne Trulove in his opera The Rake's Progress for Schwarzkopf.

While she often collaborated with top-ranked conductors such as Wilhelm Furtwangler and Herbert von Karajan, perhaps Schwarzkopf's most important partnership was with Walter Legge, the impresario and record producer whom she married in 1953. As artistic director of EMI Records, Legge recorded his wife extensively. In her discography are landmark recordings of Der Rosenkavalier (1957) and Capriccio (1959), along with song recitals of Mozart and Schubert from 1952. She went on to become one of EMI's top-selling classical artists, alongside violinist Itzhak Perlman and soprano Maria Callas.

Schwarzkopf gave her official farewell recital in Zurich in March 1979; two days later, her husband died. She leaves no immediate survivors.


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