A Documentary Biography
By Beaumont Glass
(Bolded text is either reinstated, updated, or new text that did not appear in the original 1988 publication.)
She Made the Moon Rise
For some time Lotte had dreamed of founding an American Salzburg. Santa Barbara, with its still unspoiled natural beauty, far enough—but not too far—from metropolitan centers, seemed a perfect location. Many distinguished musicians of the very first rank had made their home in Southern California. While she was still active in her concert career, Lotte had talked to several of them about her idea, and had stimulated considerable enthusiasm. First there would be a school, like Salzburg’s Mozarteum, where the great traditions could be passed on by acknowledged masters. That school would then be the nucleus for an annual summer festival. Out of those discussions, which Lotte had instigated, the Music Academy of the West was born in 1947; it found its first home at the Cate School in Carpinteria, a few miles down the coast from Santa Barbara. At one time Jascha Heifetz, Artur Rubinstein, and Gregor Piatigorsky were all interested in participating. The right moment seemed at hand when Miraflores, a magnificent estate in Montecito (one of the most elegant sections of Santa Barbara), was donated to the Music Academy of the West in 1951. The first director of the academy at its new home was the popular American baritone, John Charles Thomas, who also taught voice there that first year. Lotte Lehmann, who had just decided to retire from recitals, was invited to teach interpretation.
She accepted a fee of $3,000 for the summer session. Heifetz, Rubinstein, and Piatigorsky, however, asked for considerably more. While she was in the East, Lotte tried to raise the money. She applied to all the foundations for funding; but, since the Music Academy of the West had as yet no national recognition, no one would listen. The engagement of that glamorous constellation fell through.
When she returned to Santa Barbara, Lotte inspected the new home of the Music Academy. The rather amazing story of its acquisition was relayed to Bruno Walter in her letter of March 8, 1951.
Yesterday I had a look at the fantastic house that someone gave to the Music Academy of the West. Such a thing could only happen in America: some madly rich people named Jefferson left their house [called Miraflores] and eighteen acres to their niece, and an enormous bequest to a secretary who had been with the family for thirty-six years. That bequest was so large that the secretary said: “It is wicked to keep it all….” So she bought the house with the eighteen acres from the niece and gave it to the academy—as a memorial to the Jeffersons. It is in Montecito, near the Biltmore Hotel. Unbelievably beautiful. There is even an outdoor theatre there, with wings and all the trimmings. Naturally there is one hitch: the Academy has not a cent and has to go begging for the means to maintain it. Do you happen to know any maharajah with 100,000 dollars too many who doesn’t know what to do with them? We can help him out.
Among the original godparents of the Music Academy of the West there were—besides Lotte Lehmann—Yehudi Menuhin, Pierre Monteux, Bruno Walter, Ronald Colman, Jeanette MacDonald, Lawrence Tibbett, Doris Kenyon, Walter Pidgeon, Nelson Eddy, Richard Bonelli, Ernest Bloch, and Richard Lert—an amazing array of stars. Along with her efforts to interest influential musicians and potential sponsors, Lotte helped to launch the Academy with a benefit concert on July 8, 1947.
She started her master classes in the summer of 1951.
Some time before, when Lotte had been teaching younger colleagues in New York, Frances had noticed that the same principles were constantly being repeated, the same problems were constantly cropping up. It seemed sensible to teach interpretation in classes, so that Lotte’s demonstrations would be observed by all the students at once, so that they could each learn from the mistakes of others as she corrected them. It would save Lotte’s energy, and classes would cost the students less than private lessons. Frances Holden originated the idea behind the Lehmann Master Classes. They were the first of their kind in America. Lotte made the concept famous.
Teaching a class, of course, was not new. But Lotte’s classes were an innovation in that there was an audience. That provided an extra stimulation for Lotte and inspired her to give her very best; and for the students there was the excitement, the challenge of a performance. The songs (later opera scenes as well) were first thoroughly prepared with the help of experienced coaches, before the students sang a note for “Madame Lehmann,” as she was always called. Lotte added the finishing touches, the final polish. She formulated the precepts and demonstrated the examples in her own unique way. Her comments were seasoned with humor, her corrections—nearly always—with tact.
Among the coaches were Jan Popper, Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Fritz Zweig, Irving Beckman, Natalie Limonick, and the writer of this book.
Lotte taught interpretation, never vocal technique.
The master class format turned out to be ideal. In the beginning, however, she had not had the remotest idea what such a class would be like. She put her trust in her vast experience, her knowledge of the repertoire, and her instinct as an artist; the rest she left to the inspiration of the moment, to extemporaneous improvisation. Lehmann became a past mistress of the medium in no time. Her classes soon were famous.
The setting also played a part.
The excitement of discovering new dimensions of meaning in poetry and music and drama was further magnified by the magnificent view of the Pacific, by the gardens of Miraflores, by the mountain backdrop. For the students, the combination of art and nature was intensely inspiring.
There might be a cellist practicing under a palm tree; the sound of a flute would float over the pond; a singer would be humming the Dichterliebe under a cluster of butterflies in a eucalyptus grove.
Many students fell in love there. (Coaches too—I was one of them.) The atmosphere was seductive, the lieder were romantic, the art of Lotte Lehmann seemed to lift one’s awareness to a more poetic plane.
Lotte loved the Music Academy of the West. She was always tremendously loyal to it. She also discovered that she loved teaching. Here, for instance, is part of a letter to Bruno Walter in which she expresses her enthusiasm for two of her pupils, as she was preparing them for a performance:
At the moment I am working like mad at the Academy. We are rehearsing Act II of The Flying Dutchman. The young baritone, Harve Presnell, is absolutely astonishing. If he does not become one of the great ones some day, then I understand nothing at all. Up until now it was just a very beautiful voice; but I have managed to awaken him to the realization that singing is not the end, but rather only the beginning. He is gradually overcoming his inhibitions, and today he was so good that I am in seventh heaven. And the Senta, Shirley Sproule—so touching and so lovely. I would never have believed it possible that I could live like this through others, that I would enjoy it so. I have always resisted the idea of living “vicariously.” But that is probably our destiny as we grow old: that we can find joy in that. To be able to transform quite good singers into artists—that has something creative and deeply satisfying in it.
For our last performance we want to present six scenes from Pelléas et Mélisande. And there I feel unsure of myself, whether I can bring it off. I am afraid that I overestimate myself as a stage director; I am more frightened of the first rehearsals than any of these young people, who naturally think it will be child’s play for me.
One month later, Lotte again wrote to Bruno Walter. During her preparation of Pelléas, her brother Fritz had suffered a stroke:
Fritz is very much better; he can already move his leg a little…. Progress must be reckoned in months, not in weeks. Fritz knows that, and is patient. Theres’ is as always his angel. It is simply touching how she does not think of herself at all, but only of him…. Oh, it is really heart-rending to see someone you love so helpless.
After that shock her work came as a blessing.
I thought at first I would not be able to do Pelléas. I underestimated the power of losing oneself. Pelléas is my salvation. I forget everything when I work. What an opera! What a drama! And what happiness it is to create living beings—for it is almost that! Inside excellent singing machines I awaken human feelings. Does that sound very arrogant? It is really so. There is only one who scarcely needs me, or at least only in so far as every singer needs a stage director: Bonnie Murray, who sings Mélisande. She has everything within her—it is there, one has only to call it forth. To “call” it out of the others, I sometimes seem to need a trumpet…. But then to see how everything is working out, and how something wonderful is emerging—Ah, what a joy! I do not know if it is crazy to say so, but it is almost more beautiful than singing oneself.
What I do not understand is the fact that none of the singers (except for Bonnie Murray) seem to be able to bring something from out of themselves. I always have to awaken it afresh in each new scene. You would think that they would LEARN what is needed for the new scene from the scenes that went before, wouldn’t you?
Our performance is on the 25th—and even if everything is en miniature on our little stage—I forget the tiny horizon of my present occupation and have the feeling that a whole world is there at my disposal….
Frances devised and built the essential parts of the scenery. Mélisande’s tower was stored in the garage at Orplid for years. The fountain had disappeared.
Looking back, many years later, Lotte summed up her work at the Music Academy, answering questions proposed by John Gutman of the Metropolitan Opera for the program booklet of Der Rosenkavalier:
In the beginning I only gave two lessons a week, one lieder and one opera class. There always was an audience, and slowly those classes developed into something much more ambitious than I had visualized. In an effort to teach my students the art of operatic acting, I began to stage whole scenes, and that became so successful that I simply had to reach for a higher goal. Soon we had full-fledged performances at the Lobero Theatre, with orchestra, chorus, and lovely settings.
Now you asked me why I did that? You see, opera was the breath of life for me. The career as lieder singer, which I substituted for the world of opera, after the cruel dictate of the passing years had made me resign as an opera singer, could never make me forget the stage. Being able to re-live, in young singers, my own artistic experiences made me once again a living part of the stage. So much for my egotistical explanation. The idealistic one (which I feel just as strongly) lies in the fact that I considered it my duty to pass on to a new generation what I had learned and made my own.
That same article cast so much light on Lotte’s ideas about stage direction that it should be quoted more extensively:
The next question: How much have you really learned from stage directors? For instance—is your famous Marschallin entirely your own creation or, if not, was it molded by the stage directors of “Rosenkavalier” with whom you worked?
Lotte Lehmann: The Marschallin is a part which one cannot make one’s own in a short time. This role, in all its enchanting subtleness, has to grow in one’s imagination. Life, that greatest teacher and incomparable stage director, has given me much inspiration. I sang the Marschallin first in London, at Covent Garden, under the baton of Bruno Walter. He really was the one who influenced me the most in my approach to acting. It was not the gesture, not the position on stage that was important. It was the psychological understanding of any part I sang which gave me the direction for my acting. [Stage director Wilhelm von] Wymetal taught me the beauty of gestures. He was—as it were—my mirror, telling me the truth about myself.
Whenever you created a new role, to what extent was the director important to you?
The stage director has the overall picture before him, he has to create the harmonious interplay between all the component parts. At my time, the stage director had more time at his disposal than he has today. For instance, Dr. [Lothar] Wallerstein worked very individually with everybody. And even though I did not always agree with his interpretation and we often had heated conversations about it, I always learned something from him. I must admit, in all honesty, that I have learned a lot from every stage director I ever worked with, be it only something which I did not like! In such cases, I tried to adjust his ideas to mine, and such a compromise was invariably advantageous. For instance, when he wanted me to move at a moment when I thought it better to stand still, I moved. But when he wanted me to feel differently from what I felt, then I refused.
Apropos standing still, Richard Strauss once said to me: “Have the courage to do nothing. Your power of expression must be strong enough. It is not the gesture, it is your inner emotion that counts.” How right he was! Ever since then I have abhorred the futile gesture which only serves to fill an interval.
Last question: What is your opinion, in general, about the qualifications of an operatic stage director? Today, as you know, many opera houses, including ours, employ stage directors from the theatre….
Lotte Lehmann: On the face of it, it would appear that a singer might be the best director for an opera. But I am not so sure. Operas, to come truly to life, have to be convincing as dramatic performances, and maybe an actor will sense the dramatic possibilities much better than a singer. Of course, he has to be musical; he must understand that the singer is often guided by the musical phrase and cannot and ought not to act against the music…. It is my artistic credo that opera is a living drama, and it is my goal to live up to that concept. To make the singer, as much as it is possible, humanly convincing—that seems to me the only way. Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but that is the way I feel and that is the way I must approach operatic staging. I have worked with very great men who have guided and influenced me: Franz Schalk, Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss, Arturo Toscanini and, in my very young years, Otto Klemperer. They have left their mark, and I am grateful.
John Gutman: …Yet one remark I cannot refrain from making. In talking about stage directors in her life, Mme. Lehmann lists as the great men who have guided and influenced her Schalk, Walter, Strauss, Toscanini, and Klemperer—musicians all! Indeed conductors all. Now there is something to note and ponder.
After the success in Santa Barbara, Lotte was in demand all over. She gave master classes in Pasadena; at Mills College; at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; later also in Kansas City and in Boston; eventually in Canada, in England, in Austria. Last but not least in New York.
In 1953 she put together a program called An Evening With Lotte Lehmann, in which she talked about her life and some of her students sang arias or scenes that evoked key moments in the Lehmann career. The stage was arranged to suggest a living room in Lotte’s home, and she told anecdotes, chatted with the audience in her inimitable way, and introduced the young singers as if they and the audience were her guests. The show was taken on tour to many cities and towns in California.
Some of those audiences were hard to play to. Often there were half-empty houses. Lotte had to marshal all her vivacity and charm to create a little atmosphere. Probably never before had that been so much work for her. She also discovered that projecting the speaking voice all evening could be even more taxing than singing. It was hard to be funny to a lot of empty rows.
The master classes themselves were more interesting, more fascinating, more entertaining, and far more successful than any “show.” There were never any empty seats.
There were two kinds of classes: those for art song and those for opera. Generally, in the earlier years, Mme. Lehmann sat in a special chair at the front of the center aisle, so that she could observe her students from the public’s point of view. Later, when her arthritis made it hard for her to climb the steps, she would sit on the side of the stage. Frequently she would get up to demonstrate a point; those were the moments that everyone looked forward to most. Her total absorption in what she was doing made her forget the pain in her hip and in her knees. In an operatic scene she moved with the grace and energy of the character she was portraying. When she was in her 70s she played Sophie or Evchen like a young girl. She actually taught her twenty-year-old pupils how to give a more convincing impression of youth. She could transform herself into any character, instantaneously.
She was both stage director and partner in the opera scenes. To watch her at work was to participate in the creative process, to learn how the character thinks. And to learn how a great artist thinks, to follow her fantasy as she is developing her role. Even the most thrilling performance in an opera house can hardly give us that. Fortunately, Mme. Lehmann had the gift of eloquence in speech as well as in song. She could articulate her thoughts. A thousand nuances that one might easily miss in an evening at the opera were brought to light.
One expected, of course, that her re-creation of the Marschallin and Fidelio would be definitive; more surprising was her flair for parts she had never played upon the stage. Salome, for instance. It made no difference whether the character was a man or a woman. Otello, Don José, Rhadamès. Her Baron Ochs was irresistible.
It was fascinating to watch the young singers gradually overcome their inhibitions under her guidance. One young woman, now a famous star, was rigid with self-consciousness in her first attempt at a scene from Aïda. She could barely raise her arm, when Mme. Lehmann called for an imperious gesture. “You’ll learn to cross that stage with confidence,” said Lotte, “if we have to stay here all night!” Today that singer can chew the scenery with the best of them.
Every now and then there might be a singer who failed to get the point. One young man with more voice than understanding was asked to escort the soprano to a couch in a love scene. “Excuse me, Madame,” he asked, “but isn’t this my aria? Do you mean I have to act in my aria?!”
Reaction was just as important as action. The thoughts of the silent character were often even more revealing than those of the one who was singing. Everyone on stage had to live his or her role every moment. If necessary, one’s back had to project the emotion.
Besides the classes in opera, there were performances. At first at the Academy, then at the Lobero Theatre in town. Once the Valkyries, armed with spears and shields, sang their battle cries under the oak trees of a Montecito estate.
Over the years the Academy received gifts from some very distinguished donors. Ganna Walska and Jeanette MacDonald contributed their lavishly beautiful opera costumes. Anna Russell gave some concert gowns. One of them became Rosalinde’s ball dress in Die Fledermaus. Dame Judith Anderson loaned her Medea costume.
During her years at the Academy, Lehmann staged, among other operas, Ariadne auf Naxos, Arabella, Puccini’s Trittico, Fidelio, and Der Rosenkavalier. The last was an enormous challenge for a student orchestra and came off brilliantly, thanks to the wizardry of Maurice Abravanel, who was for many years the Musical Director of the Academy. It is astonishing what he could accomplish during the brief summer session every year, and always with most of the orchestra new. Bruno Walter’s very wise recommendation had brought him to the Music Academy of the West.
It was Maestro Abravanel, by the way, and not Mme. Lehmann, as one sometimes sees in print, who made the necessary cuts in a very long opera; he was determined to reduce the playing time to three hours without destroying continuity or effectiveness.
It was a thoroughly successful production of a wonderful, difficult opera. Lois Townsend (later known in Italy as Lois Alba) and Kay McCraken Duke alternated as the Marschallin, Mrs. Duke wearing Mme. Lehmann’s own costumes. Enid Clement was Octavian; Patricia Jennings, Sophie; James Standard, Baron Ochs.
At the time of writing, there is quite possibly not an opera house in the world without at least one former Lehmann student on its roster of singers.
Among the more famous are (alphabetically) Jeannine Altmeyer, Judith Beckmann, Grace Bumbry, William Cochran, Kay Griffel, Marilyn Horne, Lotfi Mansouri, Norman Mittelman, Carol Neblett, Maralin Niska, William Olvis, and Benita Valente. Some of them have already received the Kammersänger/Kammersängerin title. At the very beginning of their careers, Dame Janet Baker, Raimund Herincx, and Alberto Remedios were members of the class when Lotte taught at Wigmore Hall in London in 1957.
Although, perhaps, less well-known than some of those already mentioned, the following have also made—or are making—respectable careers in opera: Anne Bolinger, Lincoln Clark, Jean Cook, Grace de la Cruz, Archie Drake, Ronald Holgate, Raymond Manton, Mildred Miller, Evangeline Noël, Mary Beth Piel, Harve Presnell, Marcella Reale, Luba Tcheresky, Dorothy Sandlin, and Joan Winden. There are many hundreds more. No doubt there are some other well-known singers whose status as former Lehmann students was unknown to the author.
The lieder classes were just as exciting as the opera scenes. A song was born from an experience; the task of the interpreter is to bring it to life. In the course of a recital, the singer plays many parts, with many imaginary changes of setting and mood. Mme. Lehmann created very vivid images for every song. Nothing was perfunctory or commonplace. Poetry and music express the exceptional; everyday routine would never inspire a song.
“You’re not walking down Main Street. This is an enchanted forest!”
With those words Mme. Lehmann interrupted a pupil in the middle of a song. The young singer repeated the phrases, and the miracle took place. What before had seemed to come from empty space was now filled with life and fantasy. The singer saw the forest; and because she saw it, we were able to see it too. Mme. Lehmann had put her finger on the missing element with accuracy and humor.
Lotte never “walked down Main Street.” At least, never in a song. There was always an enchanted landscape, something special. Every single song existed in a world of its own; and with her voice, with her eyes, with all the radiance of her personality she invited us to enter into that world with her.
The vision must first be felt inside, of course. But there are ways to project it to an audience. There are tools of expression. Interpretation has its own technique. That is what the students were there to learn.
The pupil could expect interruptions, sometimes even before the first note had been sung. The piano prelude, the interludes, the postlude—those were sometimes the most striking parts of Mme. Lehmann’s interpretation. The singer is not to listen to the prelude; the singer is the prelude. Those are your feelings, it is your mood that is expressed in that music. You are immersed in that atmosphere, not apart from it. The way you stand at the piano must convey what you are feeling; whether the mood is relaxed or excited, solemn or playful, dreamy or desperate, your eyes, your hands, the tilt of your head, the posture of your body—all of that must express the message of the song. But without theatricality. Everything must remain within the framework of the Lied.
Even the nod to the accompanist should prepare the coming mood. There must be a constant harmony between what is heard and what is seen.
Sometimes the very meaning of the song is changed by the last notes of the accompaniment. “Auf ein altes Bild” (“In an Old Picture”), by Hugo Wolf, provides a touching example. The singer describes a painting. In a serene landscape the Christ Child is playing on His mother’s lap. In the background a tree is growing that will one day be a cross. The last words are accompanied by an anguished dissonance at the thought that that happy child is destined to suffer such a cruel death. Mme. Lehmann made us feel the stab of pain. But at the very end of the postlude there is a soothing major chord. During the final bars we could see in her face the dawning realization that the agony on the cross was a prelude to the miracle of resurrection. The sorrow in her eyes was slowly transfigured into a shining expression of reverent gratitude. It was the most moving moment in a wonderful song. And it took place in silence.
Another example is the end of “Beau soir” by Debussy. A subtle shadow falls over the harmony at the last words, “nous au tombeau” (“the river flows to the sea, our lives move on toward the tomb”). Mme. Lehmann guided her singers to the thought, “is it really an end? Or do we somehow become one with infinite beauty…?” The last word of the thought was timed to coincide with the serenely major closing chord.
She would “talk” her pupils through a long prelude. In “Morgen” by Strauss, for instance, the first words would arise naturally from the sequence of mental images, as if thought suddenly became audible.
Here are her ideas about that song, from More Than Singing:
The clouds upon the landscape before you—perhaps also the clouds which shadow your life—will one day vanish… You know that—you have faith in the future. You disregard the darkness of today and look with confidence toward tomorrow, which will again bring you sunshine, sunshine in the lovely landscape which you love so much, sunshine in your heart…
It is with this feeling that you become one with the prelude.
To make such a long prelude living, both for yourself and for your audience, without becoming theatrical, will only seem difficult if you approach the development of your expression “from the outside.” (I can only repeat again: only that will be effective which is truly felt. In the end you must always be sincere—warmth which is simulated may be, for a time, convincing to your audience, but your listeners will very soon fathom the empty shell of your feeling and cease to be yours… You must yourself feel deeply what you are singing, must draw your audience with you into the flow of your emotion, you and your listeners must be one in the enjoyment of what you have to give…)
Project yourself into this scene and let your own thoughts follow the prelude. Think: “everything is dark around me, tomorrow I know the sun will come again… We will be one again, you and I, and we will go hand in hand down to the beach and will stand there in silence, feeling our inner happiness, our inner understanding… I await that lovely morning, I await the beauty which will come to us, bringing us completion.” Think these or similar thoughts, while the piano sings what you are feeling… Then you will find the right facial expression, you will know: how you should raise your head, how your eyes should close, how a smile should play about your mouth. And you will also find the right feeling with which to begin singing: quiet, consciously happy, with deep feeling. Give your voice a quality of lightness and softness. Sing without haste—but for heaven’s sake never drag this song. It is absolutely lacking in sentimentality, it should flow in a great soft line. There should be an emphasis of exultant warmth in: “Glücklichen” in the phrase—“den ich gehen werde, wird uns, die Glücklichen” [“(And on the path, down) which I shall walk, we happy ones (shall be united)”]. Sing “inmitten dieser sonnenatmenden Erde” [“in the midst of this sun-breathing earth”] very evenly. Your glance should be lowered slightly with the falling of this line; “sonnenatmenden Erde” is, so to speak, a closing phrase. Look up as with a new idea at “und zu dem Strand, dem weiten” [“and to the shore, the broad shore”]—sing this a trifle faster. (It seems almost dangerous to say this; it is not really accellerando, only a little more animated. The phrases must always be alive, must have a swing, they cannot just stand there woodenly, like a row of toy soldiers…) Pause after “wogenblauen” [“wave-blue”], sing it with the sweetest pianissimo, paint here in tone the overwhelming blue of the shimmering sea. Sing “und langsam niedersteigen” [“and slowly descend”] very distinctly. Feel the climbing down, in the broad accents of the music. Now, in your thought, you are standing alone with your beloved upon the beach as if enclosed in the blue infinity. Feel the blissful solitude all about you—alone with your beloved as if in the whole world no other being existed. Everything about you fades away, you float on a lonely star through the infinity of the universe. Sing vibrantly, with restraint, under the enchantment of perfect bliss: “Stumm werden wir uns in die Augen schauen” [“Without speaking we shall gaze into each other’s eyes”]. Sing this very evenly in a floating line without dragging it. Wait before you sing—“und auf uns” [“and upon us”]—the longer you can hold the tension here, the better it is. You would break the magic of the spell if you should go ahead too quickly. Sing pianissimo, with great significance. Lift out the word “Glückes” [“of happiness”], letting it enfold you like a golden cloak. Remain withdrawn into your thoughts until the end of the postlude dies away.
There is more than one valuable lesson in that discussion of just one song. Mme. Lehmann often demonstrated “Morgen” for us, casting an indescribable spell.
There were exalted moments, there were funny moments.
“Don’t sing `Träume der Liebe‘ as if she were dreaming of a cheese sandwich!”
“Singing is giving emotion. You have to be a little hotter! More ardor—you’re not talking to your aunt.”
After a singer had finished a Debussy song with many delicate verbal nuances, Mme. Lehmann made the comment: “Very lovely; but you forgot to sing.”
Some typical precepts and random examples:
“There is a crescendo of emotion, not just of loudness.”
“Don’t make the words more important than the music; the unity of the Lied is interrupted. Both words and music are equally important.”
“Legato! Music doesn’t walk—it floats! It moves in waves.”
“One must do justice to the musical line; the phrase must go somewhere. And the words must move on to the important word, must work up to it, and back from it, like a gentle surf.”
“Soar up to the climax on the wings of a passionate emotion!”
“Don’t talk of different things with the same expression!” In “Les berceaux” by Fauré: “Now you speak of the ships in the harbor, now of the weeping women, now of the adventurous men, the mothers by the cradles, the men longing for home again, the lure of the mysterious horizon…. Those things call for different expressions. The end is the triumph of the wives; the husbands want adventure but are drawn back to the women at the cradles.”
“La chevelure” by Debussy: “Very sensuous when you repeat what he told you at `cette nuit j’ai rêvé‘ (`last night I dreamed’)…. That’s not enough! Your lover didn’t dream about his grandmother!”
“La vie antérieure” (“The Previous Life”) by Duparc: “Very mysterious…you remember another incarnation…. It is not: `I used to live in Beverly Hills, now I’ve moved to Santa Barbara.'”
“Der Erlkönig,” Schubert: “Don’t start too excited. Don’t emphasize `mit SEINEM Kind‘(`with his child’) like that; we can assume the child is his…. The father’s voice is not just deep; he is trying to comfort his son…. The Erlking whispers—it is the wind over the heath. `Du liebes Kind‘ must already sound sinister, demonic, unearthly….”
“Ich kann’s nicht fassen, nicht glauben” (“I cannot grasp it, I can’t believe it”), from Schumann’s cycle, Frauenliebe und -leben: “A difficult beginning; one must feel that you come running in from the garden where he has just proposed to you.”
“Von ewiger Liebe” (“Of Eternal Love”) by Brahms: “We must see in the girl’s expression a fanatical will to succeed, feminine but strong! Even in singing a rather slow tempo one can have a feeling of urgency and of moving forward.”
“Aufenthalt‘ by Schubert loses grandeur if sung too quickly. You are a part of this storm that roars through the woods, you exult in the uproar of the elements.”
“Ihr Bild” (“Her Picture”), Schubert: “The portrait comes to life! Sing with a sense of awe, of uncanny mystery.”
“Der Wegweiser” (“The Signpost”) from Winterreise: “Not loud in the beginning; contemplative—`What is the matter with me?’ Very legato…don’t hack up the words, don’t give too much emphasis to individual syllables…. At `einen Weiser seh’ ich stehen‘ (`I see a signpost standing there’) open your eyes widely, stare fixedly into your fate. `Keiner‘ (`no one’) must not be sung brutally; you are not really unhappy that you will die. Death is your goal. You should sing that with a kind of dark triumph! There shall be no coming back to all this pain. Feel a great calm at the end, your lips slightly parted, almost as if in a grim sort of smile. The ending must be mysterious, spiritual. It must not be loud!”
“Du bist wie eine Blume” (“You Are Like a Flower”) by Schumann: “The main thing in singing is to have imagination. You are talking to a young child you love. You are almost sad that so much innocence and purity may be soiled by the world. To do justice to this masterpiece you must sing it with all your being and all your soul. It sounds quite lovely as you sing it; but I do not yet see that child before you.”
“Ganymed” (“Ganymede”) by Schubert: “You cannot just stand there and look straight ahead; see if your face cannot say: ‘Spring is here, I am very happy, I belong to the spring.’”
“Der Kuss” (“The Kiss”) by Beethoven: “Sing that more as if you want to kiss the girl; don’t look so sad” (the audience—and the singer—had a good laugh over that!).
But—in another context—”Beethoven must have a certain dignity which could be destroyed by the sort of physical movement that might be permissible in a song by Strauss, for instance.”
For the students and for the audience it was a great privilege to learn from Lotte Lehmann. She passed on to them a glorious tradition: partly as it had been passed on to her by such masters as Richard Strauss, Bruno Walter, and Arturo Toscanini, all links in an unbroken chain going back to Wagner, Mahler, Verdi, and still further into the past; but also—and above all—filled with individuality and life—as it must be by every artist—by her own personal vitality and the radiance of her spirit.
I have been asked to write about my own experience with Mme. Lehmann at Santa Barbara. It began in the early spring of 1957.
I had just survived my second season as a stage director with the Northwest Grand Opera in Seattle, an unfinished season that came to an abrupt stop when the company went broke.
Suddenly out of a job, I returned to my home in San Francisco. As I walked in the door, I heard the phone ringing. It was a baritone whom I had coached in the Winterreise and An die ferne Geliebte. He was now a pupil in Lotte Lehmann’s master classes at the Music Academy of the West. He said: “Beau, dash to the airport immediately and take the next plane to Santa Barbara. Mme. Lehmann’s accompanist is going to Europe, and you’ve got to get this job.”
I did as I was told, without even stopping to take off my overcoat.
There was a ten-minute interview with Mme. Lehmann. Acting on impulse and intuition, as usual, she accepted me. My duties were still very vague and would not begin until the summer session; but meanwhile I was invited to attend all her classes, which were on a more intimate scale during the “winter” session—is it ever winter in Southern California?—and only rarely open to the public.
I pulled up stakes in San Francisco and moved into a little cabin high up in the mountains above Santa Barbara. The view was magnificent, and the spot was so isolated that I could run around stark naked when the weather was warm enough. It was a nice feeling. Once in a while a tarantula would pay me a visit. Otherwise I lived up there completely alone, studying music and reveling in the lush nature all around me.
Incidentally, that telephone call that had brought me to this Paradise was based on false information. Lehmann’s accompanist was not leaving. There was no actual opening at all at the moment. But I sensed that destiny was at work, nevertheless. So I stayed on.
Twice a week I would go to the Music Academy to attend Mme. Lehmann’s classes. They were a revelation to me. She would demonstrate her interpretations of the lieder being studied, and would act out all the roles in the opera scenes. When she stepped in as Micaëla, for instance, she instantaneously transformed herself into a wholesome young girl from the country. Gray hair and wrinkles disappeared as if by magic. Or she would turn into the most hilarious Baron Ochs I had ever seen, snatching the wine away with a poisonous look of frustrated lechery when “Mariandl” was becoming too maudlin in her cups. The Supper Scene can never have been funnier. “Das Wunder der Verwandlung—the miracle of transformation,” to quote a line from Ariadne auf Naxos. I admired the elegantly off-hand way her sophisticated Tosca removed her gloves. Every character came to life in a uniquely believable way. The greatest privilege of all was to see her re-enact her world-famous Marschallin, with a thousand half-lights and nuances, “a tear in one eye and a twinkle in the other,” as Strauss had prescribed. Nothing that she did ever had the stale whiff of “routine.” Everything was freshly recreated, out of her mind and heart and soul, no matter how often she had performed it during a long career. Furthermore, she had the eloquence in her quaintly accented English to articulate her most subtle insights. Her students made fun of me because I used to write down all her comments in my scores. One day they presented me with a huge pencil, as a joke. But Viola Westervelt, one of Lehmann’s friends, who had dropped in for a visit, leaned over and whispered to me: “Someday you’ll be very glad that you profited from her wisdom and experience; someday you’ll write a book about her.” It took thirty years for her prophecy to come true.
One day Mme. Lehmann suddenly asked me to accompany her in two songs by Hugo Wolf, “Gebet” and “Auf ein altes Bild.” That was a moment of destiny in my life and I did my best to make the most of it. I felt a rapport such as I had never felt with any other singer, although I had been accompanying singers since my early teens. I was swept into another world. Even the look in her eyes was electrifying, as she nodded for me to begin the prelude to that simple, moving prayer. The first song was totally new to me, but it was not hard to play at sight, and a wave of inspiration seemed to guide my fingers. The second was already one of my favorites.
Evidently Mme. Lehmann was pleased with me, for she made a sudden, spontaneous decision. She announced that in the coming summer session she would have three separate master classes each week, instead of two. Jan Popper would continue to coach and accompany the opera class. Gwendolyn Koldofsky would continue to accompany the lieder class. And I would be the coach and accompanist for a third series, which would be devoted half to opera and half to lieder. I was overjoyed. I loved lieder just as much as I loved opera. And Lotte Lehmann was equally great in both.
So I spent my time preparing as much repertoire as I could, studying recordings, reading through opera scores and all seven volumes of Schubert songs, three of Schumann, four of Brahms, and all the many small volumes of Hugo Wolf.
My first assignment for the opera class was the scene between Hans Sachs and Eva from Act II of Die Meistersinger. I felt very privileged to be able to work on such a masterpiece. I threw myself into the preparation, played and sang the scene over and over until I felt that I understood the poetic and musical essence of every phrase. Then I coached the two young singers until they were able to sing everything faultlessly and by heart. Their voices were of course far too light for the roles they were singing; but the performance would be in a recital hall, not in an opera house, and with piano, not with an orchestra. The great day finally arrived: my first public performance at a Lehmann master class. I started to play the opening music as I had rehearsed it a hundred times. “Louder, Beau, louder!” Mme. Lehmann called out. I started again, louder. “This is Wagner, not a Schumann Lied. Louder!” She sounded surprisingly impatient. I was devastated. During the course of the scene, Lehmann kept insisting on more volume. Must all of my exquisite details, the nuances I had come to love, be sacrificed to sheer loudness? I could hardly believe what was happening. When the intermission came, I slipped out into the garden, totally humiliated and demoralized. Fortunately for me, Gwendolyn Koldofsky came out and put her arm around me. “Don’t let it get you down; we’ve all been through that at one time or another.” I’ll never forget her kindness. It took me a while to swallow my intense disappointment. I had so hoped to impress Lehmann with my interpretation of one of Wagner’s great scenes! I’m afraid that I took out my resentment on an innocent baritone whose audition I was asked to accompany immediately after the master class. He had to bellow “Nemico della patria” over the loudest fortissimo I could pound out. When I was finally calm enough to analyze what had happened, a sense of perspective gradually returned. Obviously Lehmann, who had sung Wagner with all the greatest conductors in the world, whose teacher had actually sung the world premiere of the opera in question, must have missed something in the way I played that music. Who should know better than she how it was meant to sound? She expected a certain sonority, a certain deeper undercurrent, without which even the most refined nuances would count for nothing. It was a painful but valuable lesson. In retrospect, I am very grateful.
During that first summer I was one of three coaches. During the fall, winter, and spring of the next two years I was the only one. After that unfortunate experience with Die Meistersinger, I must have drastically improved, for Mme. Lehmann and I developed a warm, harmonious relationship as I gradually earned her trust. She saw that I worked well with her students.
Luba Tcheresky was one of Mme. Lehmann’s most talented pupils. She had a lovely spinto voice and lots of Russian temperament. Before one important sing, Lehmann had invited her to spend the night at her house, to get a good rest. Luba was surprised and touched when Mme. Lehmann herself served her breakfast in bed. Years later, when I was with the Zurich Opera, Luba came there to sing Donna Anna and Micaëla.
Another very gifted pupil was a baritone named Douglas Miller. His idol was Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and he took to lieder as a duck to water. I accompanied him in a recital that featured Brahms’ “Four Serious Songs” and Ravel’s “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.”
But the star of the Lehmann classes was undoubtedly Grace Bumbry. She was on the threshold of a big career. Mme. Lehmann reveled in the glorious sound of her voice and was enormously proud of having discovered her and having released her innate talent.
I shall never forget Grace’s very first solo recital, at Santa Barbara. Dame Judith Anderson had given her the simple, flowing gown she herself had worn as Medea in a famous production of Robinson Jeffers’ poetic version of the play by Euripides. Grace looked like a goddess in it. Not yet twenty-one, she showed remarkable composure and dignity. Every song made its effect. Grace had the audience in the palm of her hand the entire time.
Mme. Lehmann thought that there were too many gestures. My impression was that every movement was expressive, sculpturally beautiful, and fully motivated by the text and the mood of the moment.
Gwendolyn Koldofsky was the accompanist at that very first recital. In the many that followed before Grace left for Europe, I had the great pleasure and privilege of being her regular accompanist.
Mme. Lehmann made careful plans to launch Grace in the most effective way. She arranged for her debut recital in San Francisco to take place on Lotte’s birthday, with a glamorous champagne reception to which all the influential people of the local musical world were invited. The Medea gown was copied in gold lamé. Lotte ordered magnificent flowers. The next day there were rave reviews of the recital from both of the leading San Francisco critics. Grace was definitely on her way.
Lehmann did not teach voice as such, only interpretation. For vocal lessons her students were sent to Pasadena to work with Armand Tokatyan, a former tenor of the Metropolitan and an excellent voice teacher. His pupils all swore by him.
One of my odd jobs by then was to chauffeur the singers to and from their vocal lessons with Mr. Tokatyan. One miserably rainy night I was driving them back to Santa Barbara. We were rounding a curve at a cautious speed when suddenly I saw a car speeding toward me in my lane. There was a mountain on one side and the ocean on the other. I had less than a second to choose. The next thing I knew I was spitting out teeth, half my lower lip was torn away, and the steering wheel was an outsize pretzel pressed against my jaw. The young baritone in the passenger seat was blinded by blood from his forehead. Grace Bumbry was unconscious on the floor of the back seat. My first thought was that the car might suddenly burst into flames, as I had seen in so many movies. I had somehow to get Grace out of that car, and in a hurry. I staggered out the door and found I could hardly walk. I slid around the side of the car and tried to drag Grace out, but I had no strength at all. Meanwhile a large crowd had materialized out of nowhere. Curious strangers stood around and gaped at me. Desperate, I begged for help. Finally a nurse appeared and we managed to get Grace out and all three of us into an ambulance. The baritone and Grace were soon released. She had only a small cut between her eyebrows. She had been sleeping in the back seat, and that had saved her. The scar is there to this day. As for me, my jaw was broken and had to grow a new hinge. And muscle trauma in my legs kept me on crutches for several weeks.
A month after my car accident, I met my future wife. I was still on crutches, four front teeth were missing and my jaw was wired shut. She was absolutely gorgeous (still is, forty-three years later). I first laid eyes on her when she came to audition for Mme. Lehmann. I, as usual, was the accompanist. The first thing I heard Evangeline sing—omen of things to come!—was Grieg’s “I Love You,” in German, the nearest thing to a Lied that she knew by heart at the time. Then she let loose some glorious, full-blooded high notes in Santuzza’s aria. Mme. Lehmann accepted her as a pupil. And I scheduled her coaching sessions as the last in the day, so that I could have as much time with her as possible, with no interruptions from other students arriving for their lessons. We worked on arias from Lohengrin and Tosca, then went for long strolls in the beautiful gardens that surrounded the Music Academy. We had met in January, became engaged in March, and were married in June. Our daughter Melody was born the following March, after her mother had performed a very pregnant Sieglinde under Mme. Lehmann’s direction in Act I of Die Walküre.
It was always an experience to be invited to the menagerie that Lotte Lehmann called home. Numerous dogs would beg for scraps at the table. We were encouraged to feed them, then to let them lick the plates. There were parrots, horses, all sorts of animals at one time or another. But my favorites were the talking Indian mynah birds. They seemed to know when their mistress was getting bored. They would say with uncanny clarity in a sing-song tone: “Time to go, time to go!” And we all had enough sense to take the hint.
After our baby was born we left Santa Barbara’s cozy Paradise for the real-life rigors of New York, to pursue mutual careers. Two years later, Lehmann invited me to come back and be her assistant in staging her final production, Beethoven’s Fidelio. She was seventy-three at the time and troubled by arthritis. So she needed someone to move people around the stage while she worked on details of characterization with the individual singers. Besides helping with the stage direction, I was the chorus master and sang in the chorus myself. Evangeline participated in the master classes, making an outstanding impression in two scenes from Die toten Augen by Eugene d’Albert. One of Lehmann’s greatest early successes had been the role of Myrtocle in that opera. She showed Evangeline how to mime the immensely moving climactic scene where her character blinds herself by staring at the sun during a long and powerful orchestral interlude, a tour de force as Lehmann performed it, and as Evangeline re-created it under her guidance.
For Lotte teaching was a great satisfaction when she felt some response, a great frustration when that was lacking. Before every new series of master classes, especially those in a new place, she would be extremely nervous. Would the students be too good? Would there be nothing to correct? Or would they be so untalented that the class would be boring? Such thoughts tormented her beforehand; but the moment she stepped before an audience her theatre blood began to tingle. The old inspiration always came back. No matter how many times she demonstrated a song, no matter how many times she herself had sung it during a long career, it was always like a first time when she stood there in the bend of the piano and the accompaniment began.
There are two conflicting theories about interpreting art songs. The one is based upon the definition of poetry as “the recollection of emotion in tranquillity.” That school of thought maintains that the performer is basically a reader and should simply recite the poem, if possible clearly and tastefully, but with a certain emotional reserve. The other school—to which Lotte Lehmann most emphatically belongs—urges the performer to re-experience the feelings that gave birth to the poem, and to communicate those feelings to the audience as vividly as possible, to give life to the poem—though within the conventions of the recital platform rather than those of the theatre. With her voice, with her eyes, with her whole being she lived the song. And she brought the audience with her into its world. She did not resort to theatrical gestures; but within the accepted performance traditions of lieder, she was able to project what she felt about the song by exploiting all the expressive possibilities of body language, facial expression, and verbal nuance.
In Lehmann’s day, it was customary for lieder singers to hold their hands in a clasped position. But she could do that in so many expressive ways: lightly or fervently, relaxed or tense, close to the body or reaching out. She could lean quietly against the piano; or she could surge forward vigorously. When she first attended a recital by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, her world-famous successor in the field of lieder, she was surprised that he kept his hands more or less lifeless at his sides. His face and voice were enormously expressive, but his hands remained relatively inert. That perplexed her. When her students tried to adopt the new style, which has since spread everywhere, she was willing to experiment with them, always trying to keep the body expressive, even though the hands were down. She found it very difficult and very frustrating. Because Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau is a great artist with an extraordinary gift for communicating the nuances of a song, no one notices his hands when he is singing. But for less experienced recitalist, the hands can be a distracting problem.
Personally, I find that compromise is possible. Depending upon the mood to be expressed, the hands can be at one’s sides; one hand or both can touch—or grasp or rest upon—the piano lid; the hands can be clasped; one hand or both can touch the body in an expressive way. The important thing is that one’s whole being be in harmony with the atmosphere and the emotions of the song, that every element be organic and artistic, and that nothing be overdone.
When Mme. Lehmann demonstrated a song or a scene, she did not actually sing it in any usual sense. She generally “marked” it an octave lower, in a very quiet voice but with full intensity of expression. Once in a great while she might forget herself for a moment and a beautiful phrase or two would astonish and delight her hearers.
That happened, for instance, during one of her master classes in London. The distinguished actor (and author), Robert Speaight, wrote the following impressions under “Critics’ Columns” in The Tablet of October 12, 1957:
…And now she has made herself into another kind of artist in order to pass on her own experience to the young singers of today. There has been no happier or more heroic fulfillment on the contemporary stage.
The present series of public rehearsals let us into the secrets of her incomparable art and personality, and in doing so they take us into the heart of the music she has chosen to interpret. I was lucky enough to hear her in the first act of the Rosenkavalier—the two duets between the Marschallin and Octavian, and the great monologue. This last she went through for us in full, hardly singing but acting it all with such perfect expression that it was easy, from memory, to fill in the contour and the color of the voice. And it was wonderful to see how it was done, and why. At the end of the afternoon, there came one of the most electrifying moments I have ever experienced in theatre or concert-hall. She was demonstrating the ironic gaiety with which the Marschallin should bid Octavian goodbye [presumably just before the arrival of Baron Ochs]. Suddenly, from the rather dingy stage of the Wigmore Hall, a sound went up which did not come from either of the very promising pupils of the Opera School. In a second we realized what had happened: Mme. Lehmann had forgotten that she had no voice! The applause went on for about a minute while she brushed aside the moment of oblivion with a good-humored wave of the hand….
Those master classes at Wigmore Hall in London—the first series was in 1957—were among her happiest memories. She was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the audiences, by the phenomenal attention of the press. Those classes were hailed as the artistic event of the season.
She wrote back to Frances:
The public was simply tremendous yesterday…. I had a wonderful reception; but then, after I had started to teach, the audience went mad. I am very relieved and my nervousness has vanished.”
Four days later:
The concert class went beautifully and the audience was quite as wild as in the opera class. All the participants are very responsive, quite surprisingly so.
At sixty-nine the Marschallin, off-stage, seems to have lost little of her charm. A susceptible Quinquin longed to come into her life. (“Quinquin” was Octavian’s nickname.)
I can’t understand it—especially since I am very cold to him and always tell him that he is a crazy fool. It flatters me—naturally…. It would be nice to find some pleasure in flirting with such a handsome boy, but I only think it ridiculous….
Ivor Newton, who accompanied many of the greatest artists of his day, played for the classes in London. He wrote about that experience in his book, At the Piano—Ivor Newton:
She was kindness itself to the students who, though naturally nervous at singing to her, soon loved her as the audience did. The greatest achievement of Lehmann’s classes was the way in which the young singers were persuaded to have confidence in themselves…. She always said: “Don’t copy me; don’t become a carbon copy of any other artist. When I make a suggestion, think it over and develop it along your own lines.”
The master classes made many headlines. To Lotte’s acute distress, several made her three years too old. An error in an old reference work had been copied over and over by others. She had her original Perleberg birth certificate and threatened to wear it around her neck on a chain.
AT 72, A MAGNIFICENT SHOW
…It was fascinating and touching for those who had never seen her in the opera, for—leave the singing voice out as we must—she is an actress of the utmost brilliance and charm…. Merely to see the way—as the Marschallin—she chucks Sophie under the chin with her fan is worth going to see. She scattered her wit and instruction over a two-hour class, asked the young artists to regard her as a colleague and not “as someone who stands on a pedestal.”… (Percy Cater, The Daily Mail, September 24, 1957)
LOTTE LEHMANN, 72, SHOWS `LOVERS’ HOW TO KISS…
Two young singers pallidly embraced each other on the Wigmore Hall stage last night. And a kindly, grey-haired woman watching them shook her head sadly and said: “I have never yet seen young singers play a love scene right. I—an old woman—have to show them even how to kiss!” Lotte Lehmann did just that, with the emotion and fire of somebody fifty years her junior…. She showed them what color of voice to use…where to put their hands…how to sit and stand…how to glance…how the music guides every word and gesture. And as we watched, two youngsters came to life in front of our eyes. Best of all was the way Mme. Lehmann described the key character of the Marschallin—her own great role: “She is a woman who must live with dignity, wisdom, courage, and kindliness.” For that is the only description of Lotte Lehmann herself…. (Noel Goodwin, The Daily Express)
The Sunday Times had this to say on November 3:
…The class was on “La Bohème,” and watching her sketch, lightly, subtly, magically, the beginning of springtime love in an attic and its decline into winter and mortal sickness was the most ravishing experience in the world. She made new and irresistible and human what one had foolishly thought hackneyed to the last cliché.
She made the moon rise, I swear it, in the middle of Wigmore Hall, at the end of “La Bohème,” Act I, with a piano and two young singers without costume, lights, or scenery.
She turned, for a quicksilver moment, into an adorably guttersnipe Musetta, when a few seconds earlier she had been demonstrating the right, the only way to burst into tears because your lover is tired and jealous and your lungs are in a shocking condition.
Perhaps there will be no more Lotte Lehmanns, enchanting, witty, tender ladies, high-romantic yet spiced with irony, elegant yet never artificial, supremely graceful and intelligent, and leaving one in no doubt that they are above all things women…. (Siriol Hugh Jones.)
In April 1965 Lotte gave a public master class at Town Hall in New York—scene of so many triumphs—to raise money for the scholarship fund of the Manhattan School of Music. She was given such an overwhelming welcome-back ovation by the audience that she said: “I teach my students that one has to master one’s emotions. At this moment I am a very bad example. I am shaking from head to toe.” When she rose to demonstrate a point in a song, she asked the audience to be indulgent: “It is embarrassing—I cannot sing it, I croak it.” The audience loved every enlightening moment.
In an unpublished article, Lotte herself summed up her feelings about teaching:
When in 1951 I bid farewell to my concert public in New York in my beloved Town Hall, which was like a home to me, I believed that I would totally retire from all musical activity. Through an entire lifetime I had served the world with my song; and I felt that the time had come to dedicate myself to my “hobbies” and, so to speak, to the joys of life, the joys of a quiet, contented old age. Unfortunately I was not born for idleness…. It goes against my nature to live thoughtlessly, passively, waiting to see what sort of future, what sort of joy might still remain for me.
Then came the offer from the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara. Just for a few hours each week, entirely according to my choice, I should instruct a class in the interpretation of the Lied, perhaps, if I wanted to, also teach a class in opera. I had already given a few lessons, quite sporadically. But now to stand before a class, to give talks about singing, about an art that had always poured out of me as something self-evident—that was a frightening proposition. But along with the fear, life came back into my life. So I accepted.
Many students have passed through my hands, many successes can be recorded, and sometimes I think that teaching is actually the best thing that I have done, for it is something that benefits others and not just me alone. Many of my pupils have good engagements in Germany. It is a sad fact that Europe still does more for young singers than great America. In America one always wants only names—but how can young people make a name without opportunities to perform on the stage or in concert? That is the big question.
Here there is more and more interest in opera and lieder, thank God; but where are the opera houses that play throughout the whole year—with paid vacations, as was and—I believe—still is the custom in Europe?
Everyone dreams of a great international career. Many are called and few are chosen. For the teacher it is like a miracle when out of the host of talented singers a single one shines forth. That singer is then for me the glorious fulfillment of my dreams, a resurrection—though in a quite different artistic form—for me. It is a uniquely beautiful thing to know: I have helped to open a door, to give a sharper focus to the true delineation of a role, to the inner meaning of a song. And then to see the individual way in which the young singer has translated what has been learned into terms of his or her own personality. Imitation is a sign of inner weakness. To grow beyond what one has learned is the ideal.
That was my goal and my prayer for all who came to me to learn.