Four German Sopranos of the Past

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

Käthe Heidersbach was born on October 30th 1897 in Breslau. Initially, she devoted herself to studying the piano at the conservatory of her hometown. Later, she was taught singing by the famous opera singers, Juan Luria, Lola Beeth and Fred Husler. Heidersbach's debut in opera took place in 1922 in Detmold. From 1924 to 1927 the singer was taken under contract by the Stadttheater Breslau, from 1927 until her farewell performance in 1944 she was one of the most significant members of Berlin's State Opera. The soprano appeared in guest performances in Dresden, Amsterdam, Zurich, Hamburg, Munich and Barcelona. In 1934 she was appointed Prussian "Kammersängerin". Heidersbach's performances in Bayreuth (1928-34) as forest bird in "Siegfried", Gutrune, Eisa and Eva marked an important stage in her career. After having ended her career as a stage artist she settled down in Stockholm where she devoted herself mainly to teaching. Käthe Heidersbach died on February 26th 1979 in Kyrkhult (Sweden). Emmy Bettendorf, born on July 16th 1895 in Frankfurt am Main,already started to sing at a very tender age. The girl was not even 15 years old when she auditioned for the Opera House of Frankfurt where she accepted a two-year-contract in 1914 making her debut as Gabriele in Kreutzer's "Nachtlager in Granada". After a guest performance as Agathe at Vienna's Court Opera in 1916 the artist was engaged in Schwerin for the next four years. Here, Bettendorf took the opportunity to extend her repertory into all directions and interpreted roles from the lyric as well as from the youthful-dramatic repertoire with increasing success. A certain number of guest performances at Berlin's State Opera in 1920 finally led to a permanent engagement. In 1924, however, the soprano moved on to the Städtische Oper of Berlin where she was to be heard in numerous opera and operetta productions during the following five years. Guest appearances in the Netherlands together with the Opera Society managed by the singer, Comelis Bronsgeest, enabled Bettendorf to present herself as a Mozart singer. She performed at Zoppot's Waldoperand was heard in opera and concert in almost all major German cities. Due to an illness the singer bade farewell to the stage but kept in touch with the public by concentrating on her work in the recording studio until about 1936. From then on, she occasionally still sang in concerts. Emmy Bettendorf died on October 20th 1963 in Berlin. Else Gentner-Fischer was born on September 5th 1883 in Frankfurt am Main where she also began and finished her vocal studies. At the local Opera House she made her operatic debut in 1905 and in the same year married the tenor, Karl Gentner (1876- 1922) who, like herself had a contract with Frankfurt's Opera House. It was in her hometown that the artist spent almost her entire career starting out with smaller roles but she soon emerged as one of Germany's most significant dramatic sopranos. In 1923-24 the soprano toured North America with the German Opera Company and created the part of Myrtocle in the first American performance of d' Albert's "Die toten Augen" in New York in 1924. Her debut at the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires took place in 1926 as Isolde in "Tristan" and she also interpreted Brünnhilde in the "Ring"-cycle. The singer was a regular guest at Berlin's State Opera, at the Teatro Liceo in Barcelona and the Teatro Real in Madrid. In 1934 the ensemble of Frankfurt's Opera gave a guest performance in the Netherlands where she sang a highly acclaimed Marschall in "Der Rosenkavalier". Gentner-Fischer made her final stage appearance in 1935 as Isolde in Frankfurt. The soprano's second husband was the Jewish baritone, Benno Ziegler, who had to emigrate to England in 1939. Under these circumstances Else Gentner-Fischer now definitively had to give up her career and from then on lived secludedly in Upper Bavaria where she died on April 26th 1943. One of Germany's most successful and constant Wagnerian heroines and for a long time Leipzig's leading dramatic soprano was Margarete Bäumer. Born on May 25th 1898 in Dusseldorf she began to show her interest in music and theatre at a very early age. After having studied in Dusseldorf and Cologne she made her first operatic appearance at the age of 29 at the Opera House of Barmen-Elberfeld. The singer accepted an offer frömDusseldorf's Opera House in 1923 but went to Zurich only one year later. From 1925 to 1928 the soprano appeared in Stuttgart until Bruno Walter and Heinz Tietjen invited her to Berlin's Städtische Oper where she shared the dramatic soprano repertoire with Helene Wildbrunn. Guest performances in Barcelona, Prague, Geneva, Paris, Copenhagen, Riga and Amsterdam were to follow. In 1930 the artist became a member of the German Grand Opera Society in New York and consequently was heard on all major North American stages. Returning to Germany in 1931 Bäumer accepted an offer from the Opera House of Nürnberg and sang during the following season in Mannheim. At the festival in Leipzig on the occasion of Richard Wagner's 50th day of death the singer was heard as Kundry. As a result of this highly convincing performance Bäumer was to remain Leipzig's leading dramatic soprano for over two decades until 1953. Even after that she made guest appearances on various stages and at the age of 65 Bäumer still·could be heard as Brünnhilde in "Götterdämmerung". Apart from that she had been teaching at Leipzig's Music Academy from 1953 on. In 1959 she was appointed Hohorary Member of Leipzig's Opera House. In 1969 Margarete Bäumer retired to her house at Ammersee where she died shortly afterwards in December 1969.