Four Famous Contraltos of the Past

Artist Rosette Anday
Title Four Famous Contraltos of the Past
Release Date Thursday, September 7, 2006
Genre Classical > Choro
Composers Camille Saint - Saens, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Camille Saint - Saens / Richard Wagner, Gaetano Donizetti, Georg Friedrich Händel, Giuseppe Verdi, Georges Bizet, Richard Wagner, Christoph Willibald Gluck
Songwriters Karin Branzell, Sigrid Onegin, Emmi Leisner, Rosette Anday
Copyright © Preiser Records

Promotion Text

Lebendige Vergangenheit

Genuine contralto voices are a rarity in the field of vocal art. Low female voices are usually defined as contralto but the expression mezzo soprano fits better in most cases. The difference between a mezzo and a contralto voice becomes evident rather in the central range of the voice than in the vocal range as a whole. The "center of gravity" (a term often used in former schools of singing) of a contralto voice lies two whole notes lower than the one of a mezzo soprano. An expansive low register enables a real contralto to produce that typically rich, organ-like sound which characterizes this vocal register. One _of the most significant representatives was the German contralto Emmi Leisner who possessed one of the most beautiful instruments of her time. Already as a ten-year-old she was determined to become a concert singer. Having finished school Leisner was sent to Denmark for a year to be trained in house-keeping. She instantly made contact with a group of musically interested people and when she returned to her parents her vocal development as well as her playing piano had made rapid progress. Leisner 's parents eventually enabled her to study regularly which she did in Berlin for three years with Helene Breest. After having finished her vocal training Leisner auditioned for several conductors and chorus masters and soon was engaged for a concert by Karl Straube, leader of the famous Thomanerchor in Leipzig. Her appearance was an extraordinary success and Leisner was celebrated as a rising star of oratorio singing. It was in Leipzig that the singer made her first contact with the operatic stage. The manager and the principal conductor of the Leipzig Opera House had signed a contract at Frankfurt am Main and invited Leisner to come with them. Her guest performance there was an immense success with both public and critics. The manager of Berlin's Opera House arranged an audition in the presence of Count von Hülsen and Leisner was consequently offered a contract. For seven years, from 1913 to 1921, she belonged to the Ensemble of the Berlin State Opera where Amnens, Dalila, Brangäne and Fricka were among her most celebrated roles. One of the singer's most memorable achievements was the role of Orpheus in Gluck's "Orpheus und Eurydike" in a production of the Jacques-Dalcroze school of Hellerau, which was then considered very avantgardistic, as well as her interpretation of Fricka at the Bayreuth Festival. In 1922 Leisner bade farewell to the opera and devoted herself exclusively to lieder and oratorio singing. Emmi Leisner soon established herself as one of the leading representatives in this field and gave concerts in all major German cities and German speaking countries as well as in France, England, the United States, Denmark, Sweden and the Far East. In the oratorical field she excelled especially in works by Bach and Händel. Leisner made her last appearance as a lied singer in 1948. Since 1939 the singer lived in Kampen on the island Sylt advising young singers. Emmi Leisner died in 1958 at the age of seventy two Sigrid Onegin was born on June 1st 1889 in Stockholm to German parents. Her real name was Elisabeth Hoffmann. When her parents separated, mother and daughter went to Wiesbaden. Very early her love for music and singing developed but since Sigrid Onegin had to earn not only her own but also her mother's living there was not even a thought wasted on vocal studying. A performance of "Carmen" with the famous Madame Charles Cahier confirmed Onegin's decision: she auditioned for the well known teacher and singer Eugen Robert Weiß. Encouraged by his positive judgement and inspite of all obstacles Onegin started her vocal training. By doing paperwork for various companies during the night she could afford to study during the day. After only a short period Onegin became the masterstudent of the Conservatory in Spangenberg. It was there that she met her future husband, Baron Eugen Borisowitsch Lhwoff Onegin, who was to become an ideal counsellor and companion. At a Bach Festival in Stuttgart where she performed in a small solo part she was heard by Max von Schillings who invited her to audition for the Court Opera in Stuttgart. There a contract had already been prepared due to the influence of the great composer and conductor which she only had to sign after the audition. Her debut in opera took place in 1912 in the role of "Carmen", under the name Lilly Hoffmann-Onegin. Besides her stage work in Stuttgart the singer studied with Cavaliere De Ranieri, an Italian meastro, in Milan. In 1914 her name had already become noted and Onegin's international career was on the outset. World War I broke out and Baron Onegin, being of Russian origin, had to be hidden by his wife for over two years. Only theq the singer confessed to the King and was generously pardoned. Her studies with Cavaliere De Ranieri, too, came to a sudden end but Onegin found a great teacher in her colleague from Dresden, Margerete Siems, the first Chrysothemis, Marschallin and Zerbinetta. On November 12th 1919 Onegin's beloved husband died and she signed a contract with the Munich State Opera where she stayed until 1922. On October 29th 1922 Onegin made her American debut in Carnegie Hall in a concert with Leopold Stokowski. The success was overwhelming. In November of the same year she triumphed at the MET as Amneris in "Aida" (with Rethberg and Martinelli) which was tobe followed by Brangäne in "Tristan und Isolde" and Fricka in "Die Walküre". In the following years she gave concerts in all major American cities, her last one on January 30th 1938 in New York Town Hall. Sigrid Onegin belonged to the Ensemble of the Berlin State Opera from …