Lotte Lehmann League Newsletter Spring 1991 Volume III, No. 1

Lotte Lehmann’s Earliest Recordings
by Horst Wahl (translation: Judy Sutcliffe)

It is both interesting and noteworthy that the very earliest recordings of the young German singer Lotte Lehmann were produced by a French firm (using the “hill and dale” technique).

The French cylinder and disk firm Pathé Freres had always been interested in engaging well-known singers for the development of their Wagner repertoire. Among the more prominent of these recordings, primarily made in Berlin, are those of tenors Ernest Van Dyck (1903), Jacques Urlus (1903, 1910), Karl Jorn (1903, 1910), Erik Schmedes (1905), Hans Tanzler (1910), Fritz Vogelstrom (1911), Heinrich Hensel (1912), Fritz Soot (1913); baritones Friedrich Weidemann (1905), Joseph Schwarz (1910/11), Robert vom Scheidt (1911/12), Hermann Weil (1912), Walter Soomer (1913); bass Theodor Lattermann (1910), and sopranos Thila Plaichinger (1910), Eva von der Osten (1912), and Annie Krull (1913).

Shortly before the outbreak of the first World War, in February and March of 1914, talent scouts from Pathé were in Germany searching for great Wagner interpreters. Fortunate circumstances led the firm to pay attention to two singers who had just taken the first steps toward careers that would lead them to the highest fame: Lotte Lehmann and Michael Bohnen. While the young Lehmann was gathering her first laurels at the Hamburg State Theater, Bohnen, only a few months older, had his first major engagement at the Hoftheater in Wiesbaden. Both had already proved themselves in Wagnerian music drama.

Both artists were invited in early April 1914 to the Berlin Pathé studio. Trial recordings turned out satisfactorily and both artists were immediately signed to recording contracts for a year, running from April 1, 1914, to March 31, 1915. Along with a dozen recordings from Leo Slezak, the Lehmann and Bohnen disks were something of a swan song for Pathé’s activities in Germany, as all further plans were stopped by the war.

It was usual for Pathé to first make the recordings—mostly in batches of six—on a large master cylinder and then to transfer them to vertically cut disks. And so it went with the Lehmann and Bohnen titles, the matrix numbers of which (with interruptions) lie between 55967 and 55991.

Both singers were called in to the Berlin Pathé studio in April 1914, and, as can be seen from their duet and from their neighboring matrix numbers, both singers were sometimes present on the same day. While Lotte made six cylinder cuts, Bohnen made l2.

Michael Bohnen, whose powerful bass-baritone even on these acoustic recordings is outstanding, began with a series of scenes from Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. He followed these with “Die Frist ist um” from Flying Dutchman, two songs of Gurnemanz from Parsifal, and both arias of the King from Lohengrin (all on 35cm disks) and finally the two Mephisto arias from Gounod’s Faust.

Lotte Lehmann sang the great Eva-Sachs duet from Die Meistersinger with Michael Bohnen (‘Gut’n Abend, Meister’) along with both of Elisabeth’s arias from Tannhäuser and both of Elsa’s from Lohengrin. The early Pathé recordings caught very well the fresh and youthful voice of the 26-year old singer with all of her charm.

While out of Bohnen’s recordings, seven titles went into production, from Lehmann only two arias were released prior to the outbreak of war on August 2, 1914. These were the two Elsa arias [two acoustic, single-sided, center start, etched label disks made in Berlin in 1914, 11 1/2″ (29cm) diameter, about 87rpm (sic), entitled “Lotte Lehmann, Stadt-Theater Hamburg,” no conductor or orchestra known]:

• Matrix 55978 Lohengrin (Wagner) Einsam in truben Tagen, German Order No. 42048, Coupling number 5844

• Matrix 55979 Lohengrin (Wagner) Euch Luften, die mein Klagen, German Order No. 42048, Coupling number 5844.

(Reissued in Germany by Preiser Records in the Lebendige Vergangenheir series, LV 1336, entitled “Lotte Lehmann V,” and on their CD “The Young Lotte Lehmann” 89302, a three CD set.

I am happy to be able to publish in this edition of the LLL Newsletter a rare letter from Lotte Lehmann that is of special interest as it presents correspondence of the artist with the first recording firm with which she was associated. It is dated February 13, 1915, with her address given as Hamburg, Dammtorstr. 11. The Pathé stamp says the letter was received on the 15th and answered the next day. Lehmann writes to the management of Pathé Freres, “I am very pleased to accept the extension of my contract to March 31, 1916. I would be much obliged if you would send me 400 marks to my account. Sincerely, Lotte Lehmann, member of the Hamburg Stadttheater (from 1916 with the Vienna Court Opera).” [The copy of the letter is omitted here.]

The offer of the Pathé Freres, despite war and the hostility of the French people, to extend her contract until March 31, 1916, shows their apparent intentions to publish the recordings only in Germany, or with the hope that the war would soon end. It is doubtful whether she received the asked for advance.

It is worthy of note that many of the Pathé titles from Lotte Lehmann and Michael Bohnen were repeated only a few years later for Odeon and Deutsche Grammophon. Lotte’s engagement with Deutsche Grammophon at the end of 1916 followed the expiration of her Pathé contract.

[Not included here is an article on newly released Lehmann CDs.]

Letters Worldwide

• W.R. Moran, California: Thanks for the LLL Newsletter… Glad to see the emphasis on discography correction! Good mission. Re: RCA CD 7809-2 you might have said this was also largely made from original metal parts, all the unpub. except one at least. Pleased you are commenting on quality, too. It would be a good idea to always give dates… The Wahl piece is excellent, and important as it explains why an acoustical recording was made after electrical recording had been introduced. Good for you and Horst!

• La Baronne Elie de Rothschild, Paris: I would love to be a member of the Lotte Lehmann League. What do I do about it? Dalton Baldwin sent me a copy. Where can I buy the “Rosenlieder” compact disk? I remember Lotte Lehmann in 1931! in Vienna.

The only requirement for LLL membership is love of Lehmann. Gary and I pay for printing and postage, as it’s simpler than keeping track of subscriptions. [Website users note, the LLL Newsletter is no longer published.] “Rosenlieder” are on a Pearl CD, GEMM CD 9409, titled “Lotte Lehmann with Jan Kiepura and Richard Tauber.” -JS

• Lt. Col. James Alfonte, Texas: Your Lehmann newsletter is most welcome… Did you know [Lehmann and Elisabeth Rethberg] were sworn in as US citizens together? Rethberg often spoke of Lehmann and prized a pillow which L. had given her and for which she had done the needlepoint. Would you be kind enough to send me the address of the Record Collector?

I have no subscription info on the Record Collector, but the address is c/o Larry Lustig, 111, Longshots Close, Broomfield, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 SDU, England. -GH

• Frank Drake, Chicago: I most certainly do wish to continue receiving your wonderful newsletter. Although I never saw Madame Lehmann in person, I did see a few of her masterclass videos. I remember her demonstrating Schubert’s “Der Wegweiser.” That demonstration opened up to me what a powerful microcosm a Lied could be. Like for so many others, she has been a great inspiration for me. Will it ever be possible for the League to make available to collectors far removed from Santa Barbara copies of (non-copyright) recordings such as are on public use cassettes at UCSB?

Contact the Curator at UCSB’s Lehmann Archives in the Library, Special Collections, Santa Barbara, CA 93106: Another university library might be able to obtain copies of some of the Archive tapes for public use. California visitors might want to pre-arrange a visit to the Lehmann Archives; there’s much to see and hear. -JS

• Sherman Zelinsky, New Hampshire: Especially enjoyed all the data re: her Rosenkavalier recording. With her so close association with this role I had always assumed this was perhaps her favorite recording, until I received a letter from her in which she wrote that the one she liked best, her very favorite, was the Walküre!

• Hugh Samson, California: For the pleasure your bulletins have given me. (With a check enclosed.)

Many thanks indeed! Contributions to our printing and postage expenses are always appreciated.

• Bo-Chang Lee, Taiwan: Thanks for sending Lotte Lehmann League. They are always giving me such pleasure.

• Alfred Frankenstein, Israel: From an essay published in the Hebrew magazine “Musica” in Tel-Aviv:

“The first time I heard the singer was in 1927 at a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra conducted by Bruno Walter. Lotte Lehmann sang the “Wesendonck Lieder” and the Rezia aria from Oberon. From thereon I did not miss a single appearance of the singer in Berlin, neither in concert nor in opera. I am not ashamed to admit my feelings of sentimentality now, after more than 60 years, when I remember the marvelous impressions of Lehmann’s voice and her artistic personality. Whenever I look again into the many letters she wrote to me, into the number of photographs of the artist and also her many books… all this confirms the lasting impression of a rare artistic personality—unforgettable for me.

“At the end of the 20s Lehmann was often guest of the municipal opera of Berlin (Charlottenburg). That was the time that Bruno Walter was chief conductor there. So I was fortunate enough to hear Lehmann in her famous parts: Turandot, Ariadne, Fidelio, Sieglinde, Desdemona. When she returned to Berlin in 1932, she appeared as Eva in Meistersinger at the State Opera and Wilhelm Fürtwängler was conductor… Whenever I look into the programs of that period, I enjoy again the marvelous atmosphere of all those evenings. I remember particularly a special performance of Gounod’s Faust when three famous singers appeared together: Lehmann as Marguerite, Kiepura as Faust and Ludwig Hoffman as Mephisto. In my program I find that Lehmann sang in five performances within nine days… This was in 1927 and two days later she was again Turandot, her partner Kiepura, the Liu Lotte Schöne, conductor Bruno Walter. A few days later with Bruno Walter, an unforgettable performance: Ariadne, with Maria Ivogün.”

Lotte Lehmann League Newsletter Autumn 1991 Volume III, No. 2

[Omitted is the list of Lehmann’s many roles, which can be found on this website.]

On Lehmann’s Many Roles

A close reading of the preceding list can provide a kind of mini Lehmann biography: small roles at the beginning of her career, the rather precipitous growth to larger, more demanding characters as well as the many roles in forgotten operas which every opera house must try out.

This list doesn’t show the number of performances of each role [which can be found on this site] or how the roles were assumed in other houses, especially in the US. It also overlooks the roles which she prepared but never performed in their entirety, for instance, Isolde. Isolated arias such as “Ozean, du Ungeheuer” from Weber’s Oberon, “Reich mir die Hand mein Leben” Là ci darem la mano) Zerlina’s duet with Don Giovanni) and others which she recorded but never performed on stage are not represented on this list.

Lehmann’s fame often rests on a few Wagner and Strauss roles. This does great injustice to the breadth of interpretations she essayed. The total number of roles performed on stage is an incredible 93. And the total number of performances 1,613! This last number was gleaned from the appendices of Alan Jefferson’s Lehmann biography.

Lehmann’s final opera appearance was with the San Francisco Opera in Los Angeles as the Marschallin in 1946.

A New CD Set: The Young Lotte Lehmann

A recent release of a 3 CD set of Lehmann recordings by Preiser is called “The Young Lotte Lehmann”. It includes most of the recordings in the Lebendige Vergangenheit series LV 22, 94, 180, 294, and 1336 except for those items recorded after 1925. I wrote to Prof. Jürgen Schmidt, the set’s producer; he responded, saying that the title was chosen so that the consumer will know the album’s contents. He believes that there will be enough CDs from other companies covering her later recordings. The sources are the same as for the LPs with the exceptions of the two Suor Angelica arias and the Eugen Onegin title, where better original copies were located. He has not allowed any “tricks” or filters to alter the original sound.

These recordings have all the advantages of CDs… and all the positive attributes of the original LPs of the “LV” series. The sound is good, considering the period, and the young Lehmann sounds…well, young. Though these recordings are invaluable for any Lehmann fan, I can’t help thinking that she wouldn’t be so highly regarded if she hadn’t made the later “electric” recordings with her deeper, more mature interpretations. The number of roles recorded is impressive (see the companion article in this issue on her roles). The set includes the expected arias of Wagner and Mozart as well as lesser known composers such as D’Albert. –GH


–Bernd O. Rachold, Erich Wolfgang Korngold Society, Hamburg. “Thank you again for regular sending of the Lehmann newsletter which gives me the opportunity to ask you once more for an answer to this letter.” [copy of 1989 letter to Lehmann Archives enclosed]. The earlier letter to the Lehmann Archive (which apparently did not receive an answer) proposed to trade Korngoldiana for Lehmanniana. At the time Herr Rachold wrote, the Archive materials were mostly in boxes, unsorted and uncatalogued. The holdings are now organized, and Curator of Manuscripts, Dr. Elizabeth Witherell recently replied that though she had not found any Korngold correspondence, she would appreciate copies of any Lehmann-related material that the Korngold Archive possesses.

–Sherman Zelinsky of Manchester, New Hampshire, writes of his appreciation of this newsletter and suggests, “…for non CD’-ers such as I, perhaps you might also list cassette availability… Also, it might be of interest to readers to have a brief bio telling when and how YOU first became interested in Lehmann, her art, and her discography…” He also asks if anyone knows if Lehmann ever sang in New Hampshire; he heard her in Boston and in San Francisco. Well, you will find the brief cassette listing in this edition along with LP and CD information. Everyone is invited to send us information about available recordings.

–Michael Tanner, England “Many thanks for sending me the latest number of the LL League newsletter, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Months ago I wrote [to the LL Archive] to say that I would very much like the LP set; but I have heard nothing. I would be extremely grateful if you could let me know and ask them to tell me how much to pay for it, sent air mail, and I will send an International Money Order. I’m sorry to ask you to do this, but I am desperately keen to have the set.

We have mentioned this LP set elsewhere, but Mr. Tanner is not alone in finding no reply to his letters. When I checked with Special Collections I was told that perhaps the letters haven’t been addressed: Lotte Lehmann Archive c/o Special Collections, The Library, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; Telephone (805) 893-3062


Though we don’t have any official affiliation with the Lehmann Archive at UCSB, we nonetheless are in touch with both the document and the recorded sound portions thereof.

Susan Bower, Assistant Head, Arts Library, UCSB, recently sent me the latest list of Lehmann recordings to help with the discography I’m preparing for The Record Collector. She writes,
“… we have acquired additional material from the Music Academy of the West as well as from Northwestern University, which is not included in these lists…”


Let’s start with cassettes (also available as CDs).

• Lotte Lehmann, Songs of Schumann, Strauss, Hahn, Gounod, Sjöberg, and Balogh; RCA Victor Vocal Series 7809-4 RG and on CD, 7809-2-RG.

• The Vintage Collection; Operetta Volume One; among others, Lehmann in ensembles which include Tauber in excerpts from Der Ziguenerbaron and Die Fledermaus; BBC-7CR 716; as a CD: BBC-CD 716

• Lotte Lehmann: The Met Centenarians; MET 703; (catalog number RF03, on CD: RE03); arias and songs; available from the Metropolitan Opera Guild. Good sound and rare songs.

• Sunday Night Concert at the Met, includes “Ständchen” by Strauss sung by LL; a “MET” publication; order R56C for cassette and R56D for CD.

• An Old Met Christmas, includes Lehmann; another “MET” release on cassette R57C and CD R57D.

Other LPs are now out of print in the US but can be purchased through mail-order lists and at some record stores which carry “remainder” stock. The complete LP inventory of Voce, which includes two important Lehmann recordings of live song performances (VOCE 69 & 99), was recently sold and may now be available in US record stores which carry classical music and still have an LP section.

CDs which include Lehmann:

• Opera Arias: Lotte Lehmann; EMI: CDH 7610422. Good sound, easy availability, good starter CD for those who have recently discovered Lehmann.

• The Young Lotte Lehmann: Preiser: 89302 (3 CDs), (see review in this Newsletter).

• Lotte Lehmann Sings Wagner and Richard Strauss; Pearl: GEMM CD9410 (arias and songs; also works by Offenbach, D’Albert, Giordano, Lehar, etc.)

• Lotte Lehmann with Jan Kiepura and Richard Tauber; Pearl: GEMM 9409; Puccini, Johann Strauss, Godard and songs by Jensen, and Werner.

• Lauritz Melchior Anthology VoL 4; Danacord: DACOCD 317-318; 2 CDs; Act I and excerpts from Act II of Die Walküre. LL recorded these with Melchior in 1935; Bruno Walter conducts. Good sound and Act II is impressive.

• Die Walküre; Angel: CDH 61020 (more easily available than the DACO); only Act I (one CD).

• Die Walküre; Act II; “live” (with sometimes poor sound); Legato Classics: LCD-133-1; Flagstad, Reiner conducting; 1936 performance.

• Der Rosenkavalier; LL’s classic 1933 recording available on Pearl: GEMM CD5 9365. Unfiltered, raw 78s.

If any readers note the publication of Lehmann’s Der Rosenkavalier on Référence CD, or any other “in print” recordings not listed here, please let me know. Der Rosenkavalier, digitally remastered from original metal parts, was given a catalog number but wasn’t yet published.

• Divas 1906–1935 with Lehmann’s “Komm Hoffnung” from Beethoven’s Fidelio; Nimbus CD NI 7802.

• Lohengrin by Wagner in a 1935 performance conducted by Bodanzky is available on Melodram’s MEL 37049 set of 3 CDs; Cuts and incomplete sections; the third CD includes early LL acoustic recordings of Wagner arias.

• Frauenliebe und -leben and Dichterliebe with Bruno Walter at the piano is available on CBS Portrait Series MPK 4484Q. Previously we reported that this was only sold in Europe; it has also been sighted in New York City record stores. –GH



An article on Lotte Lehmann by Vivian Obern appeared in two installments in the Hope Ranch Park Magazine, Winter and Summer 1991 issues. Primarily a pleasant condensation of Beaumont Glass’ 1988 biography, Lotte Lehmann: A Life in Opera & Song, it give an overall coverage of Lehmann’s history, with special attention to the home “Orplid” in the Hope Ranch area of Santa Barbara. Lehmann and Frances Holden acquired the English cottage on six acres shortly after their first home in the mountains above Santa Barbara burned in a 1940 canyon fire. Ms. Obern, a local historical writer and Hope Ranch resident, interviewed Ms. Holden for the article and was granted permission to use a number of photos from her collection.


The July 1991 Opera News featured an article by Ned Rorem, “In Search of American Opera.” He interviewed a number of composers, including John Kander who “…says he ‘wouldn’t know how’ to write an opera, despite being (unlike Sondheim) an avid opera buff. The biggest influence on his pop songs has been Lotte Lehmann’s Marschallin–not the music itself so much as her emphases (which mirrors Billie Holiday with me). He feels the ‘musical theater’ is going towards opera.”


There was an extensive article on Jeffrey Tate, the respected British conductor with a strong interest in opera, in the 30 April 1990 issue of the New Yorker. At one point he speaks of conducting a vocal line: “There is a moment—an exquisite moment—when a voice will possess the right amount of overtones, when it will have the beauty of vibration and will need just one mini-second more to expand and blossom. If you skate over that moment, the beauty of the line is lost. You can’t teach that to a conductor; you can only gain it by listening and having much experience. Of course, one must always consider the test as well. There’s a mistaken idea about bel canto. It’s not a monotonous legato line, with never a rise and fall. Without sacrificing the musical phrase in any way, the singer must feel the inflections of the language. Listen to recordings of Caruso, Gigli, or Lotte Lehmann.”

In another New Yorker “Profile,” this from 22 April 1991, the focus is on the longtime Lehmann friend, music critic and author Marcia Davenport. Now 89, Davenport remains feisty and opinion filled. She speaks of the four soprano voices that, “each in its own way..constitute everything I respond to with everything I’ve got…first, my mother’s. [Alma Gluck] That’s self-evident. The next is Rosa Ponselle’s–for its sheer incomparable beauty. That was physically the most beautiful voice I ever heard, in a class all by itself. And next, for contrasting reasons, is Lotte Lehmann’s: she was the finest singing actress I ever heard. And the fourth is Leontyne Price’s–a most extraordinary natural voice.” Later in this interview Davenport states: “There are certain works that I have sworn I will never listen to again, because I cannot stand the violations of my concept of perfection. Between Maestro [Toscanini] and Lotte Lehmann, I will never again listen to a performance of Fidelio…and I won’t listen to Rosenkavalier, because of Lotte Lehmann. That’s perfection, too. I won’t spoil my treasures…”


Die Hamburgische Staatsoper 1678-1945, published in 1988 by M & T Verlag AG, Zürich, has a chapter on Lehmann called “Hirtenknabe und Marschallin” by Max Busch; it includes many rare photos.


In a small book called Wir von der Oper, which appeared in 1932, Lehmann writes: “I often long to know the concentration of the stage actor who doesn’t experience the obstacle of the musical phrase…But then when I myself stand on the stage singing, acting, completely realizing the character which I’ve become, then I feel that wouldn’t do anything else but that what I do…Music allows me to forget the everyday…”