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Erna Berger (1900 - 1990)


Erna Berger displayed musical talent from a very early age, not only as a singer but also as a pianist and dancer. When she was seventeen she had the opportunity, through a family friend, to sing for the soprano Elisabeth Rethberg who, recognizing her talent, suggested that she join the chorus of the Dresden State Opera, where she would also receive free vocal tuition. This however was not to be. Erna had been left in the care of family relatives in Dresden while her father, a railway engineer, was building railways in Africa; but he now decided to emigrate to Paraguay, taking his family with him. His subsequent death there forced Erna to take a job as a governess, although she was able to return to music and began to sing with a pianist in Montevideo. By the time she was twenty-three she had saved enough money to return to Europe, settling in Dresden. Here she worked in an office while studying in her spare time with Hertha Boeckel and also with Melitta Hirzel (wife of Max Hirzel, a leading tenor at the Dresden State Opera).

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