Tiana Lemnitz, whose father was a military bandmaster and whose mother had a fine singing voice, was the youngest of ten children. Despite singing solos in school from the age of seven, she had no vocal training until she entered the music school at Metz in 1912. After World War I, in 1919 she enrolled at the Hoch Conservatory at Frankfurt-am-Main, where she was a pupil of Anton Kohmann; and made her operatic stage debut in 1921 at Heilbronn in the title role of Lortzing’s Undine.
Between 1922 and 1928 Lemnitz was a member of the opera company at Aachen, making her debut there as Woglinde / Das Rheingold. Here she sang several of the principal roles of her repertoire, such as Pamina / Die Zauberflöte, Donna Anna / Don Giovanni and Elisabeth / Tannhäuser; in addition she married the bass Ernst Gerstung, also a company member, and for a time sang under the name of Tiana Gerstung. From 1928 to 1934 she was with the Hanover Opera, where she sang in the first performance of Georg Vollerthun’s opera Der Freikorporal (1931). She substituted as Agathe / Der Freischütz at the Zoppot Festival in 1930 and from 1931 sang as a guest with the Dresden State Opera.
Following the Nazi assumption of power in 1933, Lemnitz joined the National Socialist party; and having been heard by Heinz Teitjen in Dresden, in 1934 she became a member of the Berlin State Opera where she was based for the rest of her career. Her first major success in Berlin was as Elvira / Ernani; but she also sang leading roles in a number of first performances, including Paul Graener’s Der Prinz von Homburg with Max Lorenz and Eduard Künneke’s operetta Die grosse Sünderin (both 1935), as well as in the local premieres of Moniuszko’s Halka (1936) and Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Invisible City of Kitezh (1937).
Lemnitz made an extremely successful debut at the Royal Opera House, London, in 1936 as Eva / Die Meistersinger von Nürnburg under Beecham, followed by Octavian / Der Rosenkavalier; and returned to London in 1938 when, in addition to Eva and Octavian, she also sang Elsa / Lohengrin, Sieglinde / Die Walküre and Pamina (which she had recorded previously with Beecham in Berlin). She was invited to appear at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 1938, but the political situation made this impossible and she never sang in America. As a guest she appeared regularly at Dresden, Vienna, Munich and at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires; and first sang at the Salzburg festival in 1939, as Agathe.
Although excelling in German Romantic opera (her interpretation of the title role in Arabella is especially notable), Lemnitz’s repertoire also included Desdemona / Otello, Micaëla / Carmen, Mimì / La Bohème, Leonora / Il trovatore, Elisabetta / Don Carlo and the title role in Aida; as well as Mařenka / The Bartered Bride, Milada / Dalibor, Nastasya / The Enchantress and Tatyana / Eugene Onegin. She appeared in two films made in 1943, Altes Herz wird wieder jung and Nacht ohne Abschied, and in 1944 her name was included in the Gottbegnadeten-Liste of significant artists.
After the end of World War II Lemnitz continued to sing with the Berlin State Opera. Her later roles included the Marschallin / Der Rosenkavalier, Marie / Wozzeck, Donna Anna and the title part in Jenůfa, which she sang in its local premiere at Buenos Aires (1950). She followed Frida Leider in the leadership of the singing studio of the Berlin State Opera between 1952 and 1954 and made her last operatic appearance in Berlin in 1955 as the Marschallin. Her final recital, also in Berlin, was in 1957.
Lemnitz possessed a beautiful lyric voice of great sweetness and purity, which she never forced; and was a fine actress, especially in comic roles.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist