There was a time when the glorious soprano voice of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf dominated the musical world. Born Olga Maria Elisabeth Frederike Schwarzkopf on 9 December 1915 at Jarotschin (later Jarocin in Poland), she studied in Berlin at the Hochschule für Musik, and made her professional opera début in 1938 at Berlin State Opera.
She joined the Nazi Party at around the time of the beginning of the war, a decision which caused her problems later, especially in the USA. After the war she signed an EMI recording contract in Vienna (1946) with Walter Legge, who became her manager and later (1953) her husband.
Loved equally for her operatic roles and for her singing of lieder, she became arguably the greatest soprano of the postwar era, especially in Mozart and Richard Strauss, and singing at the Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, The Met in New York and the Royal Opera in London. She created the role of Ann Trulove in Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, and William Walton had her in mind for Troilus and Cressida, but she never sang Cressida on stage.
Retiring from operatic work in 1971, she devoted much of her time to teaching, with students including Renée Fleming. She died on 3 August 2006 at Schruns in Austria, aged 90.
A selection of M&V articles about Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
Ensemble. A High-level Production - 'The Merry Widow', heard by Giuseppe Pennisi
CD Spotlight. A Forthright Approach - J S Bach's St Matthew Passion, recommended by Howard Smith. '... the Ex Cathedra performance is a triumph.'
CD Spotlight. Invigoratingly Natural - Van Beinum conducts Mahler, recommended by Howard Smith. '... a tad less frenetic ...'