Lotte Lehmann League Newsletter Summer 1993 Volume V, No. 1
AN ARCHIVIST CHECKS HISTORY
Often when one hears the word “archivist” or “discographer” there is a question as to not only what the word means, but thereafter, what “use” one is. Here you’ll see the results of archival, discographical digging.
As mentioned in this issue’s LL bibliography, [Website users note: only available in the “bibliography” section of the “biography” page.] Marilyn Horne wrote a chapter about Lehmann, not all of which was laudatory. I decided to check the portion quoting Lehmann during a master class which Horne found inappropriate and hurtful. I found it on a tape recorded at the Music Academy of the West in August of 1952 or 1953.
I have personally been witness to some playfully threatening remarks by Lehmann, (“You do that again and I keeel you!”), but nothing that seemed so damaging to a young student’s ego as LL’s words to Horne as quoted by Horne: “Your Cherman vas a disgrrrace in ze Loberrro conzert…You vill neverr be grreat becauss you cannot master ze lenkvich.”
Perhaps, because Lehmann was critical, the young Horne remembers only the stinging words, but in the interest of accuracy, here is a transcription of Lehmann’s exact words:
“Do you study with anybody German? You sang lovely (at Lobero) but your German is absolutely (word not clear). You have to study with somebody German. You want to become a very first class singer, don’t you?” Horne replies: “Oh yes..” and LL continues: “You have to learn German. If you want to sing a concert and want to sing in German, you can’t make such abominable (is that the right word?) mistakes as you did. I sat there and cringed. It was very good. The whole concert was, I mean, it is perhaps even ridiculous that I say anything, it was excellent. I was very happy and very proud. But the diction was terrible. So promise me, will you? Look around for a German teacher and learn German.”
At this point LL gives her English translation of Brahms’ “Botschaft” which Horne then sings. Afterwards LL tries to get Horne to correctly pronounce the word “spricht” with the “sch” sound at the beginning. When Horne finally gets it, even Horne laughs. LL continues to address the subject of diction for all students and returns to Horne with the words, “But you have promised to take care of it,” and finally a little lighter, “Very nice.”
There is no doubt that Lehmann could be demanding and even critical in both private lessons and (public) master classes. But generally she couched her words in diplomatic, considerate language.
If you were a student or an audience member, please share wlth us your recollections of Lehmann, the teacher. If you have tapes, or know anyone who has recordings of LL lessons, public or private, please let us know.
This discographer has the good news to report that new non-commercial recordings of Lehmann have surfaced and I’ll be making copies for the various Lehmann archives. One item is Schubert’s “Serenade” which was broadcast on “Concert Hall” in 1943. Another such discovery is her performance on “Command Performance” of Brahms’ “Lullaby”, also in 1943. –GH
Luba Tcheresky Remembers Lehmann
Luba was born in Russia and emigrated to the US at the age of 9. She studied with Lehmann for three years at the Music Academy of the West. She has sung throughout the US and Europe both opera and song. She is an active teacher in New York City. She wrote the following many years ago while staying at Orplid, Mme. Lehmann’s home.
To begin work on a role with Lehmann is like embarking on an exciting adventure…I have my music learned, I have translated and studied my libretto, and have a conception of the role, but I love to leave the detailed intricacies of the character to be worked out with her. How interesting and exhilarating it is to discuss, at the very outset, the conflict of inner emotions in this character, the wonderful feeling of the ease and naturalness with which this role unfolds, grows, and blossoms.
I will take, for an example, the role of Tatiana in Tchaikowsky’s “Eugen Onegin”. [A role which LL sang.] First, the garden scene in the Act I where Tatiana first sees and meets Onegin—Lehmann interrupts the scene with, “Luba, it’s fine, but your walk is bad. Tatiana’s feet would scarcely touch the ground, she is on clouds, she listens enraptured to every word Onegin says. She also would not make any quick movements of her head in such a mood…You must think your part every moment you are on stage. You don’t just cross the stage, you are thinking of the situation every minute you are making that move, you therefore will do the right thing.” She does the cross for you, all the while saying aloud the thoughts that may be running through the mind of Tatiana at this time, and there it is! You try it, is so much easier!… “Excellent,” Lehmann cries. God, what you wouldn’t go through to hear that from her!
Then in the letter scene, Tatiana is supposed to spring from the couch upon which she has been Iying with firm resolve to write a letter to Onegin and confess her love for him. You go through the action; it seems that you are succeeding, but Lehmann does not settle for just a “good” performance. She stops the scene to say, “Luba, this is a very young girl. She has led a sheltered life. She lives in the same romantic dream-world that she reads about in her books, this is all she knows. Now, she has seen, for the first time, the man of her dreams. This has disturbed her violently. You can hear it in the introduction of the music.” Lehmann has fired your imagination, it races, you are oblivious of everything except Tariana’s feelings at this moment, and all of a sudden you are no longer Luba playing the role of Tatiana, you are Tatiana, with all her dreams, longings, ideals.
ln the duet finale with Onegin, the tables have turned. Onegin has seen Tatiana at a ball, years after that fatal garden scene where they met and he regarded her only as a young, foolish girl, and spurned her love. Now she appears to him a beautiful, glamorous, mature woman, very desirable…By this time of the opera you think perhaps you have the person of Tatiana quite well engraved in your mind, and therefore in your outward manifestation, but you have not remembered a very important thing, but Lehmann has–again she stops me with, “Luba, you do not walk on with the same kind of agitation you have felt as a very young girl. You are now a mature woman, completely different.”
Then there is Lehmann the Human Being…Here again you are awed, at the worldliness yet the naiveté in her, the strength and yet gentleness, her ever present delicious sense of humor, her adoration of nature and animals, and always her love for and interest in life.
She gives her absolute all to her students, never letting down. In addition to being their artistic inspiration, she is concerned with any personal problems they may have and tries to help. Each student feels that he or she is “extra special” to her, and I am sure each one is. Her all-embracing heart is one of the qualities that makes her so beloved by all…One has no feeling of age with this warm, vibrant, magnetic artist and woman. One only feels the immortality of her consciousness suspended in time and space….
The Video Projects
Judy Sutcliffe wrote the following in a letter on 17 June 1993.
I spent 2 1/2 hours with Rita Nasser, the young film director/writer from Köln who is entrepreneuring a film documentary on Lotte. She has the funding to do the LL documentary at least at video level, and she will attempt by Fall to get enough more money to do it in Super 16mm. She was happy because she had shot video interviews of Frances (Holden, Lehmann’s long-time friend) that afternoon. Rita has quite a bit of snippets of interesting footage from old films Frances turned up in a drawer, now safely converted to video. Some of it is so old the images have ghosted into double exposures where wound tightly, and she is using some of these evocatively in sections where Lehmann is singing. She has one second of LL’s husband Otto, which she will extend with slow motion. There are images of flowers, houses, animals, Santa Barbara, New York, Germany, Australia…There is also a segment of Lotte singing in Australia with a bird…on each hand. But in general, she will be making a film of a singer with very little moving picture original footage.
She will be returning to the US in October 1993 with a German film crew, and they will do interviews in New York with Grace Bumbry and Risë Stevens and then proceed to Santa Barbara.
If any reader knows of Lehmann on film, even one second on old 8mm film, please contact us at the Lotte Lehmann League as soon as possible, and we will pass the information on to the devoted Rita Nasser. Let’s make this an international effort. [Website readers note: the film was made, but we’re always looking for Lehmann footage.]
Another Lehmann Video note: Ernest Gilbert of VAI in New Jersey is actively pursuing his goal to produce videos of Lehmann master classes. The only lead he has is the NET productions from 1967 at the Music Academy of the West. If any films exist from Lehmann’s master classes in London, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, or ?, please let us know soon.
We try to keep our readership up-to-date on all the CDs available. It is a daunting task, for not only are there many “Lotte Lehmann” CDs, but there are also many on which a single LL aria or song is published. Let us know if you notice something available that we have missed! Thanks.
Lauritz Melchior in Wagner, Verdi, Leoncavallo with Lotte Lehmann & Kirsten Flagstad. LL joins Melchior in two excerpts from Wagner’s Die Walküre taken from the famous live broadcast from San Francisco with Reiner conducting. Legato Classics: LCD-133-1
Met Stars in the New World includes Caruso, Tibbett, Steber, etc., singing music from the Americas—folk songs, hymns, patriotic and sentimental songs. LL sings “God Bless America” by Berlin from the 1947 recordings made for the MGM movie “Big City”. Met: CD: #04247 or Cassette: #04348.
Tauber is represented by an operetta CD that includes LL in the fabled 1928 recordings of Fledermaus ensembles. EMI: CDH7-69787-2
Immortal Voices of the Vienna Opera features LL in the 1927 recording of “O sei Er gut, Quinquin” from Der Rosenkavalier. Other great opera singers from the past include the expected Maria Jeritza, Alfred Piccaver, Richard Mayr etc. and the lesser known Wilhelm Rode, Emil Schipper and Alexander Sved. This CD is released by “Lebendige Vergangenheit” 89999.
Lehmann in Recent Opera News
When Lehmann began her major career in the US she was opposed to having a public relations person, but relented when she discovered that it was necessary in such a large country. Her representative was Constance Hope, whom LL called, “the cleverest girl in America.” Both Lehmann and Hope would be pleased at the recent LL references in Opera News.
November 1992: uses an LL photo as Sieglinde in a “Survey of Vintage Reissues” by C. J. Luten, who writes of a modern Ring recording’s best portion being “its Act I of Die Walküre…which stands without embarrassment beside the incandescent 1935 set made in Vienna with Lotte Lehmann, (et al) under Bruno Walter’s baton (EMI 6120); virtually all of Act II, with the above… is newly reissued on EMI 64255.” In the same issue LL is mentioned in a review of the Met CD of Rosenkavalier excerpts, again by Luten: “There are two selections…from the classic 1933 potted, (sic) mediocre-sounding (sic!) Rosenkavalier with the inimitable Lotte Lehmann [et al].”
13 February 1993: recommends listening to the abridged Rosenkavalier with LL but mentions only the Pearl CD, even though the sonics are greatly improved on the EMI Réference CD. On another page she is quoted in an article about Richard Mayr as Baron Ochs: “He succeeded in portraying this basically repulsive character with so much charm that one could never really be angry with him.”
27 February 1993: Michael Scott speaks of Karin Branzell as “a stalwart in the golden age of Wagner, the interwar years, ranking with singers of the caliber of Frida Leider, Lotte Lehmann, [et al].”
13 March 1993: mentions LL as the young Composer in the revised Ariadne auf Naxos premiere led by Schalk in 1916. She is also mentioned in reference to the Tauber operetta CD cited above.
Recollections of Lehmann Bill Swan
Mr. Swan studied with Mme. Lehmann, sang professionally in California and recently wrote that “after an early (and voluntary) retirement from singing, I worked as executive assistant to Raymond Burr (actor)… for many years.” Here are excerpts from his recollections of LL.
I first heard her at the old Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles. I shall never forget the impression she made on me. She could do more within one note than most singers could do with an entire phrase…I wrote to her of my admiration and was surprised and elated to receive an answer. (I was to learn later that one of her personal attributes was her great sense of responsibility to her correspondents.)
Studying with Lotte Lehmann was a lesson in life, not just a lesson in singing…Over the years, and after the teacher-pupil relationship had come to an end, a beautiful friendship developed. Lotte came to depend on me for her arrivals and departures from the Los Angeles airport and train depot. [Once] during the two hour drive to Santa Barbara we had a marvelous time of conversation…I told her I had only heard her once in opera and that was…in Der Rosenkavalier, her final performance of it. She exclaimed, “Oh, Bill, you mean you never saw my Sieglinde?” That was Lotte. No pretense, no false modesty. She knew that she was the greatest Sieglinde of all time.
Lotte loved to tell jokes, and she was a marvelous raconteur…At my urging she would reminisce about the Vienna Opera and other highlights of her long and illustrious career. I say…at my urging, because Lotte never lived in the past. She was too much a person of the present and had so many new worlds to conquer– teaching, painting, writing–that she didn’t have time for the past.
At one of Lotte’s master classes at…the California Institute of Technology, the great Marian Anderson was a guest in the audience…I thought at the time how wonderful it was for one of the world’s greatest singers to sit in rapt attention while another…instructed a masterclass. Lotte painted a beautiful likeness of Marian Anderson in watercolor and gave it to me. A unique treasure indeed.
In 1958 I made…arrangements to meet Lotte in Vienna. Being there with Lotte Lehmann was truly an experience not to be forgotten. Everywhere we went she was immediately recognized. Everyone from doormen to royalty clamored to get a glimpse of her or to speak to her.
A dark shadow passed over the entire planet earth at six o’clock in the morning of August 26th, 1976 when Lotte Lehmann died in her sleep at her beautiful and beloved Santa Barbara home. It was a great surprise to me when…I received a notice from the law firm in Santa Barbara informing me that I had been remembered in the will of Lotte Lehmann…It was, I’m sure, Lotte’s way of saying thank you for the trips to the airport, the railroad depot…and, too, an expression of devotion and esteem.
Henry Holt, Sydney, Australia: I am trying to find the address of the NY collector who has the “Wesendonck Lieder” with Toscanini (and LL)… I don’t know what the sound will be like, but still it will be something to treasure…
Elizabeth Witherell, Curator of Manuscripts, University of California Santa Barbara: We have received a couple of requests for the Lehmann “Winterreise” video…The price…is $100… As I’m sure you realize, we’re not making money on this. $100 is a flat rate that takes into account the cost of production, materials, copying, administrative time required for distribution, and shipping. I’d appreciate it if you could mention this correction to the $35 price… so that we can avoid disappointing those who might be interested…
Roger York, Richmond, Virginia, writes of his almost complete LL collection and notes an 85th birthday interview of her. “I was amazed at her sober assessment of her own voice, especially in her admission that her voice had peaked by 1930. Of course, she knew how to manipulate her weaknesses to dramatic advantage.”
Hertha Schuch, Vienna, thanks us for the latest newsletter and the inclusion of some of her LL memories. Regarding the new CDs, she writes, “die neuen CDs sind sehr interessant als Beweis dafür, dass LL auch in der Jetztseit und Zukunft wieder und weiterhin gefragt ist und dass Menschen die LL nie auf der Buhne gesehen haben, durch die Stimme allein so fasciniert sind… ” trans.: “The new CDs are very interesting as proof that LL also in the present and future is sought after and that people who never saw LL on stage, through the voice alone are so fascinated.”
William Moran, La Cañada, California, wrote that he, “just ran into an entry in a log of recordings made by The Gramophone Co. (Electrola) in Berlin. (I) do NOT have the record. You might want to put out a call in the LL Newsletter to see if anyone has it and what it might be all about. Artist: MARK WEBER und sein ORCHESTER. Matrix number BW-1129-2, recorded 14 October 1927. Released on Catalog No. EB 668 Title: ‘Lotte Lehmann ging ‘mal spazieren’. A Fox-Trot, composer Borchert.” A translation of title might be: “LL went once out walking”.
Several friendly readers sent checks to support this Newsletter. We thank you all for this. It means that you really appreciate our efforts and the letters and checks are moral support as much as financial. Many thanks.
WHEN THEY CRITICIZED
We’re used to reading the wonderful things they have said about Lehmann’s singing, but I thought we should read some critical words as well.
In 1934 when Lehmann sang Butterfly in San Francisco, Marjory Fisher in The News called it “more Italian than Japanese” and said the acting “verged on the melodramatic in the tragic moments, but she was amazingly youthful and girlishly animated in the first act, and in the second, the matured woman who has known much agony”.
When Boris Goldovsky was a young man he was rehearsing Der Rosenkavalier for Rodzinski when he noticed the LL sang a line toward the end of the first act “with pitches and rhythms quite unlike those that were indicated in the score.” He didn’t know how to bring it to her attention without offending her or perhaps showing his ignorance that perhaps Strauss himself had made changes. He asked if they could try it again and LL replied: “‘mein lieber Knabe, you know I have sung this role under most of the great conductors of our time—under Klemperer, under Bruno Walter, under Furtwängler, under Knappertsbusch, Kleiber, and Reiner. I was coached in this role by them all, and even, as you probably know, by Richard Strauss himself!’ She paused…’You know, as far as this sentence is concerned, never mind it’s no use. I will never learn it right.”‘ He was relieved that no row had ensued and writes, “Instead, she had paid gracious homage to my knowledge of the score. Her way of singing those two verses, as a matter of fact,—was probably better than it would have been had she sung the phrase correctly.” –GH