After a traditional education Seinemeyer, whose father was a detective inspector in the Berlin police force, studied singing at the Stern Conservatory and possibly also at the Berlin Music High School. Her vocal teachers were Nikolaus Rothmühl and Ernst Grenzebach; her original intention intention was to become a concert singer. However, she made her operatic stage debut in 1918 in the title role of Offenbach’s Die schöne Helena (La Belle Hélène) at Berlin’s Charlottenburg Opera (later to become the Städtische Oper and then the Deutsche Oper).
Seinemeyer remained with the Charlottenburg Opera until 1924 and (it is believed) began to make gramophone records as early as 1919. She toured the USA during the early part of 1923 with Sol Hurok’s German Opera Company: her co-singers included Ottilie Metzger, Jacques Urlus, Alexander Kipnis and Friedrich Schorr and the company’s conductors were Leo Blech and Eduard Mörike. Her roles with this company, which played the major cities in the east of the USA, included Elisabeth / Tannhäuser and Senta / Der fliegende Höllander, for both of which she received her best reviews, Eva / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Elsa / Lohengrin and Agathe / Der Freischütz.
Towards the end of the following year, 1924, Seinemeyer gave a guest performance at the Dresden State Opera as Marguerite / Faust. This was so successful that she was immediately offered a permanent contract with the company, which henceforth became her artistic home. Her first major new production in Dresden was Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, given in January 1925, in which she sang opposite the tenor Tino Pattiera, who was to become a frequent operatic partner. The composer was present at the premiere and declared of her performance: ‘In the whole of Italy there is no such glorious woman’s voice as that of Seinemeyer.’ A few months later she took the part of the Duchess of Parma in the first performance of Busoni’s Doktor Faust.
In the summer of 1925 Seinemeyer was invited to sing at the Bayreuth Festival, but instead appeared as Elisabeth at the Zoppot Festival. From the autumn of that year she began to record for the Parlophon company, with which she was henceforth exclusively connected. Their recordings appeared on the Parlophone label in the United Kingdom and on the Odeon label elsewhere.
Seinemeyer’s international reputation dated from her performance as Leonora / La forza del destino, which was first given in Franz Werfel’s German version at Dresden in March 1926 with Fritz Busch conducting and is generally considered to have launched the Verdi revival in the Weimar Republic. During the summer of 1926 she appeared at the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires, as Sieglinde / Die Walküre as well as Eva, Agathe and Elisabeth, but it was during this year that the first signs appeared of the leukaemia which was to kill her. The following year, 1927, she made guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera in the title roles of Tosca and Aida and at the Berlin Staatsoper as Leonora (Forza); and during 1928 added to her Dresden repertoire the title roles in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, the Countess / Le nozze di Figaro and Margiana / Der Barbier von Bagdad (Cornelius). Her final new role at Dresden was Lisa / The Queen of Spades, first given in January 1929.
In April that year Seinemeyer made what were to be her final published recordings and during May appeared at the Royal Opera House, London as Sieglinde and Eva, sharing these roles with Lotte Lehmann and gaining excellent reviews. Although invited back to London for the next year, she was unable to fulfill this engagement. Her final appearance at Dresden was as the Marschallin / Der Rosenkavalier and she died soon afterwards, having married the conductor of many of her recordings, Frieder Weissmann, on her death bed.
Clearly, Seinemeyer was a soprano of exceptional gifts, as her biographer Vicki Kondelik has noted: ‘Her voice is one of great intensity, and it possesses a certain poignancy, a quality that has been described as “tears in the voice”, which makes it unique.’ Fortunately, despite her short career, her very considerable art is preserved through numerous 78rpm recordings. As her frequent conductor at Dresden, Fritz Busch, commented: ‘No tombstone inscription could be more apt than the final words from the German translation of La forza del destino: “Die Seele lebt” – “the soul lives on.”’
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist