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Elisabeth Schumann


Elisabeth Schumann’s parents were extremely musical: her father was a cathedral organist and music teacher, while her mother, although untrained as singer, took part in local choral concerts. It was soon clear that their daughter possessed an attractive voice and considerable musicality, on which her father built with tuition in piano and music theory. Her first operatic experience, a performance of Tannhäuser when she was seven years old, held her spellbound and thenceforth she was a frequent visitor to the opera, with or without her parents’ knowledge.

Formal singing tuition took place in Dresden with Natalie Hänisch, followed by Marie Dietrich in Berlin, where Schumann became engaged to an architecture student, Walther Puritz. In 1909 he was working in Hamburg, so while visiting him she asked the Hamburg Opera for an audition and was immediately offered a contract. Having made her debut with this company in the autumn of 1909 as the Shepherd Boy / Tannhäuser, Schumann became extremely popular because of the natural quality of her singing. With the help of her teacher in Hamburg, Alma Schadow, she soon took on such roles as Cherubino / Le nozze di Figaro, followed by Susanna in the same opera, Ännchen / Der Freischütz and the title part in Mignon. Her real breakthrough part was as Sophie / Der Rosenkavalier, which she sang at the opera’s Hamburg premiere in 1911: it was to remain a signature role for the rest of her operatic career.

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