This is a translation of Lehmann’s typewritten essay on Strauss found in Lehmann auf Deutsch. She wrote a second one which can be found below.
I have heard that Strauss is purported to have often said that he had “discovered” me. That is not entirely true, as I was already in 1916, coming from Hamburg to Vienna, a well-known singer in Germany. But it is a fact that Strauss opened the doors to an international career for me when he introduced me to the Composer [a role in the opera] in the revision of his opera “Ariadne.” One needed this kind of sensation in Vienna, which a Strauss premiere brought. After all, I was a new singer in Vienna. Unrehearsed in the excellent ensemble, which bore names like Selma Kurz, Lucy Weidt, Marie Gutheil-Schoder. And crowned by Maria Jeritza. [Lehmann has frequently told the story of how she, the understudy for the role of the Composer won the role.]
Oh I was always proud when I was called a “Strauss singer.” I was often asked what happened that I didn’t sing the premiere of “Arabella” when Strauss chose Viorica Ursuleac for it. But I can understand very well, especially now, after so many years.
Strauss was very friendly with Clemens Krauss, and Ursuleac was then a very intimate friend, if not yet Krauss’s wife. Krauss was an excellent conductor of Strauss – and it seems to me very plausible that the two friends decided to give the premiere role of Arabella to the younger singer… She had a very beautiful voice and flawless technique, was musical and supple and therefore very welcome. I have never had reason to doubt Richard Strauss’ satisfaction with me. I sang the Viennese premiere of Arabella and under very unfortunate circumstances: my beloved mother died a few days before the premiere. I needed to forget, at least for a few gracious hours…[in the role on stage]
Strauss never forgot that I could be so courageous.
I had the good fortune to have the joy of studying with him “Die Frau ohne Schatten” in his charming house in Garmisch, where his wife Pauline welcomed me. I was his house guest for about two weeks and saw a totally different person there than I had known at the Opera [The Vienna Staatsoper]. Here Mrs. Pauline ruled strictly, to which he submitted without objection. Mrs. Pauline (whom he tenderly called “Pauxerl”) is often misunderstood. Oh sure, she had a sharp tongue, but she lived with her “Richardl” in the happiest state of matrimony. He needed the contradiction. He was used to having the whole world bow down to him. He didn’t like that at all. Yes, I think the worshiping world wasn’t as interesting to him as one of Mrs. Pauline’s tantrums.. .
Every morning we worked on the “Die Frau ohne Schatten” and in the evenings I often sang his songs with him [at the piano] to Mrs. Pauline, who was touched and delighted again and again. She had previously been his song interpetor [Pauline was a soprano], as he says: unsurpassed. And it was kind of her to now hear me sing the songs she had created.
The time in his house brought me closer to him. But it would be an exaggeration if I said we were friends…One just wasn’t his friend; he built a wall around himself and his family – and his compositions were like the children of his mind. That’s why I think it’s wrong to say that he was too much a “businessman” and only ever concerned about his operas because of their royalties…No, he was like a father who naturally admires his famous children wanting to see them succeed. Was that wrong? The fact that he also was a good businessman has nothing to do with the ideal side of his genius, I think. His great friendship with Clemens Krauss also implied that he was particularly distinguished as a Strauss conductor.
I said to him one time: “Doctor, if I would die today, you would say immediately: who will sing the Marschallin for us tomorrow?” He looked at me completely amazed and said: “Yes naturally, that would be my first thought.”…
I have always admired Strauss [as conductor, as composer], also as a man. And during the horrible Nazi time most people didn’t understand him; I however had known better that he could not have been a Nazi. Because political fanaticism was absolutely alien to him. But when a member of his family was threatened [his daughter-in-law was Jewish], he did everything he could to protect his family.
After all, who asks about the character of a man who has given so much beauty [to the world with his music]?
I have always admired him and when I look at the bust that Lederer made of him and which I inherited from a friend, I think of him with thankfulness for his wonderful genius, which made my life so rich as a singer through the gift of his operas and his songs.
LL on Strauss #2
[This article was obviously written while Strauss was on Lehmann’s mind after her 1964 book Five Operas and Richard Strauss. It was difficult to translate because of the unconventional German expressions found in the letters of Strauss and Schalk.]
When the role of Dyer’s Wife in Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten was sent to me in 1919, I turned it down completely: the role was extremely tiring and I had the impression that my voice would suffer if I attacked this demanding role. I had several letters and telegrams from Strauss and [Vienna Opera’s] Director Schalk, but I had lost this entire correspondence because it was stored with all my belongings in a warehouse that was totally burned down by [WW II] bombing raids. To my delighted astonishment just recently, – in June 1964 – I received these letters from Vienna. Someone had kept them for me, and this precious discovery makes me very happy. I will copy a letter here from Strauss, which characterizes him more clearly than any description of his personality could achieve. He wrote:
“My dear Fräulein!
I would be much more shocked about your letter if Die Frau ohne Schatten were my first opera. But as it is, I know the kind of letters you [“you” implying Lehmann and many other opera singers] have written me even from [as far back as] 15 years, and the “study illness,” the cause of which is clearly recognizable, which is each time cured by the time of the premiere performance. Which fool or let’s say, which opera-composing colleague has persuaded you that this role is exhausting? At the piano rehearsals, when one of your high tesituras has been studied, it won’t seem at all that strenuous to you, which will then sound as if it sings itself. Don’t forget the terrible harm for us if one can’t cast the most beautiful “youthful dramatic” [Lehmann’s Fach] role for the premier “youthful dramatic” singer! [of the Vienna Opera] If Fräulein Jeritza has to take over your job, Fräulein Lehmann wouldn’t be able to sing it! [This is Strauss being both comical and cynical, because Jeritza was Lehmann’s rival and their feud was a well-known scandal.] You’re not going to put yourself through that! That would really be suicide. But you don’t have to do it – because prescriptions for remedies of this most harmless of all study illnesses, at the height of which you are currently suffering, is already well-known. All you have to do is come here [to his villa in Garmsich, which Lehmann did do] as soon as possible and I promise you, in three days you will be cured, when you have gone through the beautiful score twice with me (it is really beautiful and incredibly gratifying). We may rearrange some, change some of the sections, until the dress fits you like a glove. (Didn’t you get my last letter?) and lastly: with cordial greetings to you, your, for the time being, still extremely indignant, Dr. Richard Strauss.”
I received the following telegram from director [Franz] Schalk: “I implore you to overcome your hysterical state of anxiety; with greater acquaintance, all the horrors of the [Frau ohne Schatten opera] score will completely disappear and unalloyed joy will take over. The role [of the Dyer’s Wife] calls for Lehmann and will be the greatest success, with every guarantee for [your] voice and artistic salvation after [your trip to] Garmisch. [With] heartfelt [greetings] Schalk.”
These rediscovered letters and telegrams (there are several of them) are a real [gold] mine for me right now, when I was wracking my brains about what I could write about Strauss that was not already said in my book Five Operas and Richard Strauss ….
How good that I overcame this “hysterical study-disease” and was able to count the Dyer’s Wife a nice success…
Many years have passed and it is not only through this correspondence that the great Master Richard Strauss is alive in my memory.
A Strauss memorial plaque was erected at Jaquingasse 3, which the Vienna Philharmonic donated in gratitude. Strauss lived in this magnificent palatial house donated to him by the City of Vienna for some time. It was a very touching ceremony and I sat among the illustrious attendees just opposite the memorial plaque, which was created by Prof. Margarete Hanusch. The plaque was beautiful and very lifelike. I had just rediscovered these letters very recently and felt very close to the Master. I said “thank you” to the silent face of bronze and I will always say “thank you” when I think of him.