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Lotte Lehmann was born into a middle-class family: her father, a government official, intended her to pursue a respectable career such as teaching after her education had been completed. However, possessing an independent character, and having since childhood always loved singing, she swiftly grasped the chance to audition for music school in Berlin when a neighbour made this opportunity possible. She studied with several teachers, the most notable of whom was Mathilde Mallinger, Wagner’s first Eva in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; and having secured a three-year contract with the Hamburg State Opera she made her debut as the Second Boy / Die Zauberflöte in 1910.

For two years Lehmann toiled with minor parts and tepid reviews until in 1912, when Otto Klemperer had to find a substitute for Elsa / Lohengrin at short notice, she agreed to sing the part. Lost in Elsa’s character, she gave the first of many performances that were vocally thrilling and dramatically absorbing. During 1914 she appeared at the Drury Lane Theatre, London as Sophie / Der Rosenkavalier and at the Vienna Court Opera, which she joined permanently in 1916. Here Richard Strauss heard Lehmann sing as an understudy for the role of the Composer in the revised version of his opera Ariadne auf Naxos and chose her to sing this role at the premiere: she scored an instant success and Strauss went on to select her as his first Empress / Die Frau ohne Schatten (Vienna, 1919) and Christine / Intermezzo (Dresden, 1924). Other Strauss roles in which she excelled included the title parts of Ariadne auf Naxos and Arabella as well as Octavian and the Marschallin / Der Rosenkavalier.

In Vienna Lehmann’s spontaneity and musicality made her an especial favourite. Her Puccini roles included Mimì / La Bohème and the title parts in Tosca, Madama Butterfly and Suor Angelica in which she reputedly reduced the composer to tears. During the Beethoven centenary of 1927 she first sang Leonore / Fidelio, which was critically acclaimed as one of her greatest achievements. Lehmann quickly became a firm favourite with English audiences too after her debut at the Royal Opera House, London in 1924. She sang in London almost annually during the summer international seasons until 1938; her roles included the Countess / Le nozze di Figaro, Donna Elvira / Don Giovanni, Leonore, Elsa, Eva, Elisabeth / Tannhäuser, Sieglinde / Die Walküre, Gutrune / Götterdämmerung, Rosalinde / Die Fledermaus and Desdemona / Otello. Between 1927 and 1937 Lehmann was also a regular at the Salzburg Festival in her signature roles of Leonore, Ariadne and the Marschallin, as well as in lieder.

She first sang in the USA during the Chicago Civic Opera Company’s 1930–1931 season, appearing as Sieglinde to great acclaim; and gave two lieder recitals in New York during 1932 before making her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 1934, again as Sieglinde. Thenceforth Lehmann once again became a great favourite, notably in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, especially identified with the roles of the Marschallin, Sieglinde, Elisabeth, Eva and Elsa. Having married Dr Otto Krause, who was Jewish, in 1926, she left Austria to settle in America after the Anschluss of 1938, maintaining her operatic career until her farewell performance at the Met as the Marschallin in 1945.

Lehmann continued to give numerous lieder recitals, often with her accompanist Paul Ulanowsky, until 1951, when she retired from the concert platform. She became extremely active as a teacher, having established the Music Academy of the West at Santa Barbara, California in 1947; her pupils
included Marilyn Horne, Grace Bumbry, Jeannine Altmeyer, Benita Valente and Carol Neblett. During her retirement she wrote and painted extensively.

The intensity of Lehmann’s singing was immediately communicative and was matched by an extremely attractive stage presence. She made many recordings from the acoustic era until her retirement, and benefited greatly from EMI’s policy of recording internationally active musicians during the 1930s: her accounts for this company of Act I of Die Walküre with Bruno Walter and of extended excerpts from Der Rosenkavalier with Robert Heger remain reference recordings. The record producer Walter Legge caught the essence of her art when he wrote: ‘If she had been born in Texas they would have called her a gusher, so impulsively did she pour out her voice in an exuberant, generous flood.’

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).

Role: Classical Artist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
A TO Z OF SINGERS Naxos Educational
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL - Great Voices in Patriotic Song (1905-50) Romophone
GREAT SINGERS (1904-1952) Naxos Historical
LEHAR: Land des Lachelns (Das) (Ackermann, Schwarzkopf) (1953) and excerpts from Lehar Operettas Naxos Historical
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 1 (1935-1937) Naxos Historical
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 2 (1937-1940) Naxos Historical
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 3 (1941) Naxos Historical
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 4 (1941) Naxos Historical
LEHMANN, Lotte: Lieder Recordings, Vol. 6 (1947, 1949) Naxos Historical
Vocal, Classical Concert, Nostalgia, Choral - Sacred, Vocal
STRAUSS II, J.: Die Fledermaus (The Bat) (Schwarzkopf, Gedda, Karajan) (1955) Naxos Historical
STRAUSS II, J.: Zigeunerbaron (Der) (The Gypsy Baron) (Schwarzkopf, Gedda, Ackermann) (1954) Naxos Historical
STRAUSS, R.: Rosenkavalier (Der) (Lehmann, Schumann) (1933) Naxos Historical
TAUBER, Richard: Opera Arias (1919-1926) Naxos Historical
TAUBER, Richard: Operetta Arias (1921-1932) Naxos Historical
WAGNER, R.: Walküre (Die) [Opera], Acts I and II (Bruno Walter) (1938) Naxos Historical

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