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 Was His Birthday Present
Lotte Lehmann met Otto Krause, her handsome future husband, in a most unusual way: she was his birthday present. A present from his wealthy wife, who wanted something very special for that special occasion. He was a great opera-lover and his favorite singer was Lotte Lehmann. His wife, for whom money was no object, gave a splendid party and engaged Fräulein Lehmann to sing. For Lotte, it was love at first sight. She had never experienced that feeling so overwhelmingly before. Every note she sang became a billet doux. The recipient was just as smitten as the gift. He left his wife and—temporarily—his four children. The first Mrs. Krause deeply regretted her generous, extravagant impulse, which had turned out to be much more expensive than she had ever dreamed. One can understand her bitterness; but she rather overdid her fury as a woman scorned. She adamantly refused to give Otto a divorce and began to make Lotte’s life as miserable as possible. Since she was very rich and influential, she could afford to make Lotte very miserable indeed. Colleagues shunned her. Someone wrote “Whore” in red chalk on her dressing room door. All Vienna was titillated by the scandal.
Lotte was torn apart by an ethical dilemma, a crisis of conscience, that would have been devastating enough as her private problem; it was unbearably aggravated by the merciless glare of unwanted publicity. She was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She decided to leave Vienna and its opera. The following story appeared in the Neues Wiener Tagblatt of February 13, 1922:
…Frl. Lotte Lehmann yesterday submitted to the directors of the State Opera a request for release from her contract. We have been informed by competent authority that this decision is unrelated to any artistic matters or to the relationship between the artist and the directors of the State Opera, and is attributable only to private personal reasons. At present Frl. Lehmann is firmly determined to leave Vienna permanently….She is presently a patient at a sanatorium in the vicinity of Vienna, undergoing treatment for a nervous disturbance which developed out of entirely private causes.
The directors did not release her. She was at this point their most beloved star, especially now that Maria Jeritza was spending more and more of her time at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
Before that fateful birthday party for Otto Krause and its stressful aftermath, Lotte had long been depressed and very lonely, shunning society. The following letter to Baroness Putlitz gives a pathetic picture of her state of mind before he came into her life:
In Gross-Pankow you live in a lovelier, quieter world. The big city is unbearable. You see nothing of the profiteering and graft that are spreading everywhere here. I live withdrawn from the world like a hermit. I literally never go out….For next summer—June to September—I am in the midst of lively negotiations with South America. If only something will come of it! Aside from the immense fees, the long trip alone is enticing, the thought of not having to sit around like a bird in the cage of this dying Austria. Horrible the day of rioting lately, of which you surely must have read. Vienna was the picture of terror. One lives here continually under a sword of Damocles. The air is charged with fearful tension, rumors flutter everywhere….The inflation is so crazy that every salary-raise is overtaken by the rise in prices before it is even paid out. I have tried to keep these fears from Mama. She has no idea of the prices my brother and I are paying for her. This is what pains me above everything: that she may yet have to experience hard times, perhaps the horrors of a new and terrible revolution, instead of enjoying a little peace at the end of a life that was burdened with many cares. But hers is just one individual destiny! This so-called “great time” has turned men into a herd of sheep and the wolves are attacking….
The contrast between Lotte’s private unhappiness and the golden picture of Vienna’s Liebling, basking in success after success, is rather shocking. Lotte needed something to lift her up, to thrill her with beauty. She had given that thrill so often to others from the stage. Now she found it, suddenly, in love.
But she imposed upon herself a painful expiation: an almost crushing sense of guilt. Her loving mother, who had met Otto and admired him, tried to reassure her in a touching letter:
Let me tell you, as your mother, that the Lord puts love into human hearts; it cannot be sinful that you love Otto. Such laws are made by humans, not by God! Otto is in my eyes a very good and honest man. He gave me his hand and promised that he will never again bring such unhappiness and misery to our family as he did before, nor make you, my dearest child, suffer—he will never do that again! Everything points to his great love for you. In case that woman puts up another act, don’t despair, my dearest child; we shall find ways and means to make you happy. Just keep your trust in the Lord, He will lead you. Don’t torture your nerves. And even if at the moment things look obscure and hopeless, the sun will soon come out again….
Your loving Mama
The more sensational Viennese papers were doing their utmost to exploit the affair for all it was worth. Lotte was afraid that Baroness Putlitz would sternly disapprove. It was a while before she summoned the courage to write to her about it.
Forgive me, dearest Baroness, I was not sure that you would understand. Yours is such an upright nature, so sensitive to what is strictly right and proper. And that which has become my destiny departs from that straight path. It strikes at a marriage, separates husband and wife, father from children. I believed that you would condemn me. And I kiss your kindly hand that you do not. I have been through many, many trials and have stood upon that narrow bridge that leads into eternal night. If I were not so firmly convinced that it will turn to good, must turn to good—I would not have been able to live through this. So I go [to South America] with the deep faith that the man I love will be free when I return. I can do no more than put an ocean between us until he is free. For the inner reason that I can no longer bear to be here and for the outer reason that I do not want something to be branded as a deplorable adventure that to us is our destiny. One thing I beg you not to believe: that I was irresponsible or frivolous. Oh, Baroness, a heavy stone has fallen from my heart now that I have been able to speak of this freely.
Lotte was miserably unhappy during the voyage to South America (in May 1922) and during the long months abroad. The longing for Otto, her homesickness, and an overpowering sense of guilt were tormenting her ceaselessly. Helene Wildbrunn, a great Wagnerian soprano and a warm, kindly human being, gave Lotte the mothering she badly missed. At the end of their tour, Lotte gave her a photograph with the following inscription: “Beloved Frau Wildbrunn, your friendship is the one very precious thing—the only thing—I gained from the South American tour.” Here is how Helene Wildbrunn remembered those days:
That inscription, so typical of her impulsive nature, sprang from a soul that was at that time deeply suffering, that could not quite rejoice over the unprecedented, brilliant successes of her thrilling Sieglinde which were being exuberantly celebrated by press and public. She could not get over her longing for Vienna, for her great love, her future husband, and the separation from her beloved parents; she was deaf to all the hymns of praise which were bestowed upon her art.
Perhaps it was granted to me and to my husband to have a calming effect upon her during that time of daily contact, to give her comfort and hope, and to guide her thoughts toward the task that lay before her, to give to expectant audiences the blessing of her great art.
As her partner I was captivated every evening anew by the magic of her so warmly radiant voice, that could effortlessly obey every inner impulse, and I was overwhelmed by the depth and truthfulness of her rich feelings, by her total surrender to the character she was to portray. In Lotte Lehmann nature truly became art and that art unfailingly led back to nature. The most precious thing that an artist can offer!
The ship, Tomaso di Savoia, carried two contingents, an Italian troupe under Pietro Mascagni, and a German one under Felix von Weingartner. Mascagni would have nothing to do with the Germans, perhaps because of bitter memories of wartime enmity; but the other Italians were more cordial to their German counterparts.
Lotte and her parents, who went to stay with Fritz and his wife at Westerland, had never been separated for such a long stretch. Her mother tried to be cheerful in her letters:
My dearest, sweetest Lotte,
My thoughts are always with you. Now I am worried how you are taking the trip and whether you are not sick. We shall be relieved once we know that you are there. And you will see so much beauty, the country, the people. Life is so short and such a colorful dream. Enjoy it all. Youth is such a wonderful time and you are so receptive to everything beautiful that comes your way. Later, when the gate to the future is closed, one can enjoy the memories. That is also something great, and you will one day experience that too, dearest Lotte. I can enjoy it now and it makes me, who am an old woman, very happy….Soon you will be in America and see wild people, Negroes, Indians, and savages. Please be careful….Come back safe and sound—that is the greatest wish of Mama who loves you.
Parsifal and the entire Ring were presented in Buenos Aires, with resounding success. It was the first time that Wagner had been performed in German in South America. There were also performances in Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paolo. Lotte received glowing reviews as Freia, Sieglinde, and Gutrune. The following, from Buenos Aires, is typical:
…One of the most beautiful voices, fresh and radiant, belongs to Lotte Lehmann….In sorrow, passion, in rapturous love and yielding femininity her Sieglinde was a perfect masterpiece, which will count as one of the greatest events of this year’s Colón season.
Besides her operatic appearances, Lotte’s contract called for a recital at Bahia Blanca. The audience there had never heard a German lieder-singer before.
They thought of a singer more as a castanet-snapping Spanish woman, and didn’t understand it at all when a lady in a simple evening dress sang simple songs in a foreign language without any gestures or “fuss.”…At the beginning of the recital the audience scarcely applauded at all, but gradually the magic of the Lied conquered there too….
Lotte had to repeat the concert a few days later. Meanwhile, mournful letters were filling the mailbags bound for Europe. The I-told-you-so’s began sailing in the opposite direction:
My darling Lotte,
Just now came your two letters with two pictures….Your eyes and your whole expression so sad! My dearest Lotte, remember, we begged you to stay here, not to go; even the last day, dearest Lotte, there was still a chance! I was so worried about you and you got so angry and said, “Do stop!”…Then, when I saw that I could not move you, I tried to tell you that the sea voyage would be good for you and your nerves….
The farewell was so hard, I felt as if I had to drag a heavy weight; and when you had left I did not shed any tears but I cried, “She is gone!” Well, you wanted it, and you know that people are happy when they get what they want….Well, everything is destiny, and you cannot avoid it.
You wrote that you had sinned against Otto’s wife, and that you had to suffer; and you torture yourself with such thoughts as that your going abroad was a punishment. How can you have such horrible ideas? Your wish to spend a few months abroad has been fulfilled….But you are reasonable and must tell yourself that it is a great disappointment, but not a punishment!
Finally, Otto decided to join Lotte, sailing to South America at the end of July. Mama was greatly relieved.
He is such a wonderful man. And now we can be reassured, because nothing can happen to you when he is with you. Rest assured that I am very fond of him, and that I hope your deepest wishes may be fulfilled. This is the great wish of your loving Mama.
Otto had come to Vienna as a child from Budapest, where he was born in 1883. Before his marriage he had served as a cavalry officer, having been an accomplished horseman since the age of fourteen. Back in Vienna, Lotte had the thrill of seeing him ride one of the famous Lipizzaner, the white stallions of the Spanish Riding School, still one of the most popular tourist attractions in Austria. He taught Lotte to ride and some of their happiest times were when they were galloping together over windswept moors or through the shallow surf beside the sea.
He was not, however, a man of independent wealth.
It was four years before he was free, four years of trial, of passion and penitence, of private ups and downs, for Otto and Lotte.
Artistically they were great years. She sang her first Desdemona, Tosca, Ariadne, and Manon Lescaut. There were guest performances in Berlin, Budapest, Prague. Raves and ovations everywhere. The Jeritza-Lehmann rivalry continued to sell newspapers (and theatre tickets):
…Will Lotte Lehmann be a Tosca? Will Lotte Lehmann be no Tosca? The riddle-game went ’round and ’round. Well-meaning female colleagues prophesied a flop. The fans of Frau Jeritza smiled their superior smile; for them there is naturally only one Tosca….The fans of Frau Gutheil-Schoder showed their skepticism; for them too there is but one singer and she is neither Jeritza (mocking smiles) nor Lehmann (smiles of condolence) but Gutheil (smiles of ecstasy). But even the Lehmannites themselves were unsure; for it was by no means certain that an ever-so-German Agathe, an Eva, the singer of blonde lyrical sentiments, the tender-hearted Lotte Lehmann, would turn out to be a good Tosca….People shrugged their shoulders, put on an expression of deeply compassionate, painful regret and predicted the worst. We know how sympathetic colleagues are, especially those who crave to sing the same role. It literally breaks their hearts when a colleague risks disaster. Well, I can’t help it….The Tosca of Fräulein Lehmann was a success, in fact a great success. It cannot be denied that she pleased the public. [She] gave her own kind of Tosca, without any scenery-chewing, without virtuoso theatrical effects, simple, natural, with great warmth of feeling; she offered nothing but a loving woman who suffers torments….Jeritza’s Tosca has a bolder design, she is a singing she-devil with the smile of a child and the shriek of Messalina; she burns down the theatre. Lotte Lehmann is plainer, but captivating….
…A very nice Jeritza enthusiast sat next to me during yesterday’s performance of Tosca—in both intermissions and three times during the second act [she kept repeating]: “No, Lehmann is no Jeritza.” The Jeritza enthusiast is right. Lehmann is no Jeritza; Lehmann is Lehmann. The great singer, the mistress of an incandescent voice, and the artist who can trust her blooming soprano to meet the outrageous requirements of Tosca. Elemental power, it must be admitted, is not her strong suit. And therefore the prayer in the second act is the highlight of her Tosca….It is the artistic deed with which Lotte Lehmann has conquered the part.
In Berlin Lotte sang the double role Marie/Marietta in Die tote Stadt by Erich Korngold, another “Jeritza part.” (George Szell, like the composer a young prodigy, was the conductor; Richard Tauber was her partner.) Korngold wrote her his appreciation:
I cannot leave [Berlin] without expressing, apart from my general thanks to the director, my special gratitude to you for your unique achievement. You were marvelous—enchanting. With all the necessary immorality as required by this role. I would not want one bit more of depravity or “verisimilitude.” Your dramatic impersonation, melodic accents and climaxes, the purity of outline in the death scene—everything was there. Also passion, truthfulness of expression, and devotion to the opera….I thank you a thousand times and with all my heart. In sincere admiration and devotion, your
Erich Wolfgang Korngold.
Lotte made every effort to be objective about her own strengths and weaknesses. She forwarded the above letter to Korngold’s biographer with the comment: “Nevertheless, the real Marietta was Maria Jeritza. I shall never forget her portrayal of the part!” Be that as it may, “Marietta’s Lute Song,” recorded in its original form as a duet with Richard Tauber, was one of Lotte Lehmann’s most popular records.
Later, Korngold had this to say:
One half of Vienna is for the fascinating Jeritza, the other for the sweet Lotte Lehmann. Who wins? I am more for heart and head, for the elemental and womanly and therefore: Lehmann is my motto!
The artistic event of 1924 that had the most far-reaching importance for her career was without a doubt her first Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. She was the first singer (and for a long time the only one) to sing all three of the leading soprano parts in that opera. Lotte and the Marschallin grew together, she molding the role in her own unique way and the role molding her, until she became identified with the character. From then on, an aura of the Marschallin never totally disappeared from her public persona. In the minds and hearts of many admirers she was the Marschallin.
It was almost through a fluke that she first sang the part. London’s Covent Garden offered her a contract that was dependent upon her singing the Marschallin. They were under the impression that the role was already a part of her repertoire. Lotte was afraid that if she set them straight she might lose the chance to sing at such a prestigious opera house. So she signed the contract and studied the part. Actually, she practically knew it already, from having sung Octavian so many times. Still, as she has written, the Marschallin is not the sort of role one can master over night.
Fortunately the conductor of the London Rosenkavalier was Bruno Walter. He was an enormous help to her in polishing the role, in bringing out the thousand facets that make it so uniquely fascinating. It was the first of their many collaborations. Lotte had always wanted to sing with him. It was partly on account of him that she had signed the contract. She revered him ever afterward as a wonderful teacher and friend, as one of the guiding spirits in her artistic development. His approach was not just a musical one. He could have been a great stage director, if he had not been an even greater conductor. Talking through a role with him was worth a month of stage rehearsals.
The date was May 21, 1924, a Lehmann landmark. It was a dream cast: Richard Mayr as Baron Ochs, Elisabeth Schumann as Sophie, and Delia Reinhardt as Octavian. It was the first performance of Der Rosenkavalier in London since 1914 (those Beecham nights at Drury Lane with Lotte as Sophie), on account of the world war and its anti-German aftermath. The audience was so “indescribably” enthusiastic that two extra performances were hastily added to the originally scheduled six (Frida Leider sang one of the Marschallins). The critics of London were unanimously delighted with Lotte:
…It is impossible to praise too highly the performance of Mme. Lotte Lehmann; she was every inch a princess—voice and gesture alike held a dignity that raised the tone of the whole thing….(The Telegraph.)
…[Lotte Lehmann is] an exquisite singer with a voice capable of the most delicate inflections, and an actress whose quiet ease is the perfection of the art that conceals art…. (Ernest Newman.)
…Lotte Lehmann’s princess moves one as one scarcely expects to be moved in opera….
…The outstanding performance of the evening was that of Mme. Lotte Lehmann as the Marschallin. Vocally and histrionically finished to the smallest detail, it had a nobility of style and a depth and variety of emotion that made it seem the only ideal rendering of the part one may wish to hear in a lifetime…. (The last two quotations are from unidentified clippings in a Lehmann scrapbook.)
In Theme and Variations Bruno Walter recalls the occasion:
While the singers of the parts of the Marschallin and Sophie were then still unknown to me, I had heard so many fine reports about them that I had gladly assented to their engagement. They were Lotte Lehmann and Elisabeth Schumann. I can still see the two young singers, then on the threshold of their world careers, meeting me trustfully and modestly in the office of the theatre. Vocally and histrionically, Elisabeth Schumann was the ideal Sophie; and as for Lotte Lehmann’s work as the Marschallin, it was even then surrounded by the brilliance which has made her portrayal of that part one of the outstanding achievements on the contemporary operatic stage. Here, indeed, was that rare phenomenon of an artist’s personality becoming wholly merged with a poetic figure, and of a transitory theatrical event being turned into an unforgettable experience.
During the same guest engagement, Lotte sang Sieglinde and Ariadne. It was the first production of the revised version of Ariadne auf Naxos in England (Schumann was the Composer, Maria Ivogün the Zerbinetta). In spite of all the enthusiasm for Lotte’s Marschallin, the audience stayed away. Ariadne’s time had not yet come. There were only two performances.
Richard Strauss had tried to dissuade Lotte from signing the contract with London. He had wanted her to spend May and June rehearsing his latest opera, Intermezzo, in Vienna. His letter of March 22, 1924, expressed his intention of personally working with her on the “very difficult” leading role. Four days later, while she was singing in Berlin, he sent an urgent telegram: “PLEASE NOT SIGN LONDON BUT STAY VIENNA.” As luck would have it, the planned première of Intermezzo did not take place in Vienna. The dual directorship, Schalk and Strauss, had become increasingly strained. The two temperaments were poles apart. Opposing factions had formed around each of them and had gradually grown in force and belligerence. Finally Strauss resigned his post. He agreed to continue conducting in Vienna and kept the beautiful town house he had built on a part of the historical Belvedere site that had been given to him by the city in a mood of gratitude for artistic glories. He gave the honor of the Intermezzo première to Dresden instead of Vienna, with the stipulation that Lotte Lehmann sing the part of Christine (alias Pauline; the role was obviously a portrait of his wife).
Dresden was not happy about that stipulation. They were proud of their “ensemble” and preferred to cast with their own stars a world première of such importance and prestige. Lotte encountered considerable resentment at first. For one thing, the conductor, Fritz Busch, was scandalized by her free-and-easy way with the notes. He complained to Strauss that she was always “swimming.” That is the German way of saying she was not always singing exactly what the composer wrote. Strauss’s answer was a classic: “I’d rather have Lehmann swim through my operas in that inspired way of hers than have any one else, however precise.” He could be very indulgent if he felt that the singer was genuinely communicating the essence of the part, filling it with the breath of life. In later productions of Intermezzo, with other sopranos, he demanded a much stricter adherence to the printed notes.
Many years later, when Strauss was preparing for the premiere of Capriccio, he held up Lotte Lehmann as a model, even if in an ironically back-handed way. His collaborator Clemens Krauss, co-author of the libretto, was coaching Hans Hotter in the role of Olivier, the poet, trying to find the appropriate style. The composer described what he wanted in this letter to Krauss, dated March 7, 1942:
As in Intermezzo, the dialogue calls for a very free verbal and rhythmic treatment, which can not be mastered at the first attempt, because it is a totally new style, difficult even for mature Wagnerian singers. As magnificently as our wonderful Hotter, for example, not long ago performed his Rhinegold-Wotan, the Wagnerian recitative is nevertheless something different, in its molded pathos, much clearer and unequivocal, from the parlando style of my comedies, which approaches the Italian recitativo secco and not only allows but even demands a much freer, more individual rhythmic treatment: a kind of uninhibited “swimming,” of the kind that the good fairy of unmusicality placed in the cradle of the admirable Lotte Lehmann as an indispensable gift. It is those tones between the tones, when one cannot be quite sure: is she singing a B or a C—unfortunately one can’t notate such sounds!
Strauss wrote his own libretto for Intermezzo. It was based on a minor incident from his own life with Pauline. He wanted the naturalness of everyday conversation and devised a vocal line that would faithfully follow every inflection of the text. Sometimes the words were merely spoken rather than sung. Only rarely was the vocal line allowed to soar. Christine is represented as a holy terror. It was Lotte’s challenge to make her sympathetic. Strauss knew that she would do just that, when he insisted upon her for the première. She was not at all keen to do the part. For one thing it seemed fiendishly difficult to ears not yet attuned to Wozzeck or Lulu. For another, it would take a bit of courage to portray a shrewish Pauline while aware that that rough diamond of a lady would be sitting in the audience. Lotte on “Christine”/Pauline:
Pauline Strauss was incredibly rude on occasion, but fierce in her stubborn integrity. In Intermezzo [Strauss] certainly presented her in all her many-faceted and ever-contradictory complexity….Investing the role of Christine with a measure of charm proved to be a difficult task….It is rather tricky to be charming if the libretto requires you to say what I can only translate as “Shut your big mouth.”
It was truly touching to witness the care that Strauss lavished at rehearsals upon making sure that his Pauline-Christine corresponded in every detail to the personality of his wife….When he said to me, “Lotte, you’re really so much like my wife in your whole being,” I accepted it as the greatest compliment ever paid me. In fact, I had to swallow hard a few times before I could trust myself to thank him.
The world première of this “bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes” took place on November 4, 1924. The work was performed not in the opera house but in the more intimate Schauspielhaus where spoken drama was generally presented. Lotte’s inspired impersonation of the leading role was a major factor in a brilliant success. A great future was predicted for the new opera. Actually it is only rather recently that it really came into its own again, thanks mainly to a charming production in Munich, an excellent recording, and a video.
Lotte added Dresden to her list of conquests:
…Lotte Lehmann—vocally and histrionically a sensation. Any man with a heart in his body would be glad to go home to this “Xantippe”…. (Dr. Otto Reuter.)
…In the role of the temperamental, passionate wife Lotte Lehmann offered an unsurpassable achievement of rare truthfulness and naturalness, with a thoroughly sympathetic undertone.
…No praise is too great for her feat….That Frl. Lotte Lehmann was able to portray this complicated figure with such living warmth assures for her a reputation as a singer with unlimited abilities.
During her guest engagement in Dresden, Lotte sang some of her other roles as well, Desdemona, Elisabeth, Eva, and Mimì. Dresden, the “Florence of the North,” was very proud of its culture, of its opera, of the great singers who belonged or had belonged to its ensemble, of the discriminating taste of its audiences. Therefore, these paeans of praise are doubly impressive:
[Desdemona]…Yesterday the sweetness of Verdi’s music was given to us again through a voice that belongs among the most precious that we have ever heard on the Dresden stage….Already in the entrance duet we were transported from one thrill to another….An intoxication of vocal beauty held us entranced and would not let us go….And upon the foundation of such a vocal talent she acted Desdemona for us, not sweetly, but with the pride of an unjustly offended wife. Instead of bathos, true compassion moved us for the suffering of an unhappy woman…. (Th.)
…As Desdemona [she] surprised us with an abundance of new sides to her highly gifted artistry. In her costume and makeup, as if after a painting by Titian, she gave the figure utterly individual contours. She by no means yielded herself in grief to the treachery of Iago, but rather plunged actively into the drama and fought for her innocence up until the last moment. Her downfall attained the stature of incomparable tragedy. The glorious voice revels in the high-arched, late-Verdi cantilena, a magnificent, dramatically colored bel canto…. (C. J. P.)
[Elisabeth]…On this evening the opera should have been called not Tannhäuser but Elisabeth….[She presented] a natural, girlish Elisabeth, without false pathos of gesture, all moving feeling….[She is] an actress of taste and expressive power….Her soprano [is] of infinitely comforting warmth, her tone full of heartfelt sincerity, and technically mastered with great art. German bel canto in the truest sense of the word.
[Elisabeth]…The voice has the intoxication of youth, bubbling over with the blissful joy of singing. Then there is the great temperament, not just in the acting but also in the voice. Further, the fabulous high notes which soar so victoriously over the ensemble, dominating it effortlessly. It was already a magnificent achievement purely from the vocal point of view; it became even more so through the acting. The appearance alone was enough to win us over. One could believe her to be one of those lovely sculptured figures from the Naumburg Cathedral. But that was the external surface. High above that was what Lotte Lehmann accomplished with her portrayal….Here was embodied humanity…. (Th.)
[Eva]…She turned the evening into an event…. (C. J. P.)
[Mimì]…Yesterday Lotte Lehmann sang Mimì in La Bohème. Those were precious hours that one experienced in the opera house. Hours of inner living.
Behind the scenes there were plenty of problems and frustrations, as usual. As soon as she returned from South America with a pocketful of hard cash, Lotte set about finding a suitable home for her parents. She wanted to buy them a house with land, where they could raise animals for food in those difficult times. Otto and Papa investigated all sorts of real estate in Germany and Austria. The search took many months. Finally, in April 1923, they found what they were looking for at Hinterbrühl, not far from Vienna. Mama could hardly express her relief:
My good, dearest Lotte and Otto,
Indescribable is my joy. I am so proud and happy to have my own home….This is the fulfillment of my greatest and most fervent wish. How lovely it will be to have my own household! I am so full of happiness and gratitude to you and Otto—you really did not rest until you fulfilled your mother’s wishes! I can hardly believe it—a house and a garden—it will be ours till our death—Papa is so happy. He sees himself already working in the garden. He is laughing for joy….
Mama who loves you.
It was a full year before they could move into their new home because the tenants refused to move out after the property had been sold. There was a law to protect their rights. The only solution acceptable to them was that Lotte and Otto should find them a comparably advantageous place to live in Vienna, and that was more easily said than done. The search continued, this time for a home for the tenants.
Meanwhile the inflation in Germany, where Lotte’s parents were living until they could move to Hinterbrühl, was even wilder than in Austria. In April 1923, 125,000 marks to the dollar; in September 48 million! It cost six million, for instance, to rent a seat cushion in a third class train car. A train ticket from Munich to Berlin, second class, cost 583 million marks.
Finally, after a year of waiting, Lotte’s parents were able to enjoy their new home. Lotte, however, was mostly away, in London, Berlin, Dresden. Papa had very much wanted to go to Dresden for Lotte’s first Intermezzo. She persuaded him not to come, fearing a fiasco. She asked him to wait for the opera to come to Vienna. When it finally did, a little over two years later, her dear father was dead. He did not live to see the day, April 28, 1926, when Lotte and Otto, free at last, were married.