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Maria Olczewska (1892 - 1969)


Olczewska (original name Marie Berchtenbreitner) studied singing with Karl Erler in Munich and commenced her professional career as a concert and operetta singer. She was heard however by the conductor Arthur Nikisch, who believed her voice to be of operatic calibre, and on his recommendation made her operatic debut at Krefeld in 1915 as a page in Tannhäuser.

After a stint with the Leipzig Opera, where she quickly moved to the principal Wagnerian mezzo-soprano roles such as Brangäne / Tristan und Isolde, Fricka and Waltraute, both Der Ring des Nibelungen, Olczewska sang with the Hamburg Opera between 1919 and 1922. While here she took part in two premieres: that of Korngold’s Die tote Stadt in 1920 in Cologne, where she created the role of Brigitta, and of Pfitzner’s cantata Von deutscher Seele in 1922 in Berlin.

Between 1921 and 1923 Olczewska sang with the Vienna State Opera before becoming a member of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich from 1923 to 1925. She then returned to Vienna, where she remained until 1930, while also maintaining links with the Municipal Opera in Berlin. During this period she married (in 1925) the baritone Emil Schipper, but the relationship ended in divorce.

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