This page is designed to demonstrate the many ways that the reputation, teaching, words and especially the singing of Lotte Lehmann has lived on. Read what J.B. Steane and others write of Lehmann’s life after death. Below, there is the excellent article on the Lehmann Centennial at the Vienna Opera, by Judith Sutcliffe.
To answer how and why Lotte Lehmann is so well known, now, after having sung her last recitals over 60 years ago, first, and most obviously, the answer is that Lehmann possessed unique communicative skills that were preserved in recordings that have continually been reissued. Her voice recorded well. Here is a live radio broadcast of Erlkönig. Translation.
(The text/translation is at the bottom of the page.) Other highly regarded sopranos of Lotte Lehmann’s era, such as Frida Leider, Maria Jeritza, Elisabeth Rethberg, didn’t have their success guaranteed in the future by their recordings. Judge for yourself on the Comparisons Page. Second, (and unlike the three sopranos mentioned above) Lehmann extended her career: after opera, she devoted herself successfully to Lieder.
After retiring from Lieder singing, her teaching sent out her disciples, who not only continued her enthusiasm and dedication to opera and Lieder, but also added longevity to her name: “Ms. X, a pupil of Lotte Lehmann, will sing a recital tomorrow evening at…” I have attempted to list “all” of Lehmann’s students (a daunting task). This same longevity continues from her students who themselves became teachers, either instead of, or after their singing careers. These dedicated teachers can be (or have been) found throughout the US, Europe and Japan and include Karan Armstrong, Marcele Reale, Leslie Guinn, Katsuumi Niwa, Carol Neblett,
Mildred Miller, Benita Valente, and Marilyn Horne among many others. Their students continue the Lotte Lehmann tradition and name; for example, it is often noted in CD booklets that Thomas Hampson’s first teacher, Sr. Marietta Coyle, was a Lehmann pupil.
Another advantage that Lehmann enjoyed was the support of recording company executives who appreciated both the recording artist Lotte Lehmann as well as the person. There was a special, personal relationship between Mme. Lehmann and John Coveney at Angel records. His personal influence can be seen in the 2 LP set that followed Lotte Lehmann’s death.
Other executives who knew Lehmann personally and saw commercial potential in re-releasing her recordings included John Pfeiffer (1920 – 1995) executive producer at RCA Red Seal, Keith Hardwick (d. 2002) chief sound engineer for EMI, and Jürgen E. Schmidt, who has worked since 1959 as director of arts and repertoire at Preiser Records. It was his idea and initiative to interview Lehmann for EMIs “Golden Voice” LP in the early 1960s. This remains the unique example of a Lehmann interview appearing on an LP along with aria recordings.
The steady stream of LPs and then, CD re-releases (and sometimes first releases) is well documented. YouTube now offers many Lotte Lehmann recordings. Lehmann recordings also appear in various “anthologies” both of opera and Lieder singers.
Lehmann’s association with the greatest names of 20th Century classical music, whether Toscanini, Bruno Walter, Richard Strauss, Korngold, or Klemperer, means that when books or articles are written on such personalities, Lehmann’s name is often mentioned.
Because he interviewed her twice, there’s a whole chapter on her in Studs Terkel’s 2004 book called “And They All Sang.” (You can listen to his interviews with Lehmann.) Prominent sections of J.B. Steane’s “Singers of the Century”, and “The Grand Tradition” were dedicated to Lehmann’s importance in the world of classical vocal music. Nigel Douglas includes a Lehmann chapter in his “Legendary Voices.” (You can read excerpts from their books)
In the 2002 “Story of the Trapp Family Singers” Maria August Trapp includes several mentions of Lehmann, who encouraged her family to “go professional.”
Unique among classical singers, Lehmann wrote many books, and she is often quoted from them in other publications, articles and reviews. Her book More than Singing has remained in print, now as a paperback from Dover, further increasing her name recognition. Her other books have been reprinted by Greenwood and Da Capo and besides allowing readers access to her thoughts, critics use her writing in their reviews and liner notes.
Lehmann has also fared well in the number biographies written about her. The German author Berndt Wessling knew Lehmann personally and wrote two books (filled with errors!) on her: Lotte Lehmann…mehr al seine Sängerin (Lotte Lehmann…more than a Singer) 1969 (while Lehmann was alive and with her input), and Lotte Lehmann…Sie sang daß es Sterne Rührte (Lotte Lehmann…She sang and the stars were moved) 1995. Though the British author Alan Jefferson wasn’t acquainted personally with her, he wrote a Lehmann biography Lotte Lehmann, a Centennial Biography 1988 that was translated into German 1991. Beaumont Glass worked with Lehmann and wrote Lotte Lehmann, A Life in Opera & Song 1988. Most recently, Canadian historian Dr. Michael Kater wrote a Lehmann biography, Never Sang for Hitler…The Life and Times of Lotte Lehmann 2008 placing her in the tumultuous history through which she lived.
The discographies that were included in the Jefferson and Glass biographies also merit attention. I compiled the discography for Glass and am the first to admit to being an amateur discographer. However, I was able to develop many original source documents to support dates as well as matrix and catalog numbers. Floris Juynboll provided really excellent work for the Jefferson biography, which he updated for the German edition.
Lehmann taught master classes in the US, Canada, England and Europe bringing her teaching talents and inspiration into the lives of many young singers (and future teachers) and further broadened the scope and longevity of her fame. But it was her teaching at the Music Academy of the West and later at the University of California, Santa Barbara that sealed her name, literally in stone. There are auditoriums at both institutions that bear her name. The Music Academy generously mentions Lehmann’s importance in its origins and UCSB supports the Lehmann Archive that she instigated and helped sponsor the Lehmann Centennial celebration in 1988. The Lehmann Archive at UCSB is part of the Special Collections of the Davidson Library, which occasionally develops special Lehmann exhibits.
The Lotte Lehmann Centennial Symposium took place from May 28 – 30, 1988 and was sponsored specifically by the Library of the University of California at Santa Barbara. It included recollections by such famous artists and commentators as Maurice Abravanel, Gwendolyn Koldofsky, Edward Downes, Dr. Richard Exner and Alan Rich. Lehmann student Carol Neblett performed a recital and Lehmann’s memorabilia and own paintings were on display. Her former students held a panel discussion and both Beaumont Glass and I made presentations.
At different points in the story of Lehmann’s influence after her death, a single person became pivotal. Dan Jacobson, now Professor of Music at Western Michigan University, was hired by the UCSB Library in the Spring of 1987 as the Coordinator of the Lehmann Centennial, and as a Research Assistant to help Dr. Frances Holden assess and catalog Mme. Lehmann’s materials that were still housed in her home, Orplid, in preparation for their ultimate placement in the Lehmann Archives at UCSB. He worked in both capacities until the Winter of 1989.
Jacobson edited the Lotte Lehmann Centennial Newsletter (8 issues, 1987 – 88) and, as a result of the centennial published “Lotte Lehmann on Der Rosenkavalier” in The Opera Quarterly, Summer 1991, which included an edited transcription of a lecture Mme. Lehmann gave, highlighted by photographs of color illustrations of Rosenkavalier scenes painted by Lehmann (intended to be transferred to a series of tiles). These were the first color inserts in The Opera Quarterly.
Another article he worked on was Lotte Lehmann on Becoming an Interpretive Singer, NATS Journal (March 1991).
During his time in Santa Barbara Jacobson discovered a set of twenty-three 16″ phonograph discs in the Lehman Archives that were original electrical transcriptions of a series of radio recital programs performed by Lehmann in 1941 for CBS. William Moran (founder of the Stanford University Sound Archives) helped transfer the recordings to reel-to-reel tape edited by the Sound Recording Studio at UCSB. Jacobson oversaw the production of those tapes into the 3 – disc LP recording set released in 1988 by the UCSB Library and Columbia Masterworks entitled “The Lotte Lehmann Centennial Album.” This set included 44 previously-unreleased recordings of Lieder sung by Lehmann with her own charming personal spoken introductions. Brahms Lullaby Translation
In 1997, the recordings were re-released internationally by Eklipse Records as a 2 – CD set entitled “Lotte Lehmann’s Complete 1941 Radio Recital Cycle.”
During this same time Jacobson designed and produced “Lehmann’s Sung, Spoken, Painted and Written Interpretations of Schubert’s Die Winterreise,” (a 75 – minute sound/slide presentation). This featured slides of Mme. Lehmann’s paintings of the Winterreise cycle shown during an audio performance of her singing the cycle, and accompanied by program notes on those songs from her own writings. [You can get some idea of the presentation on this site's Winterreise.]
Dr. Jacobson also initiated a national search and recovered a “lost” film produced by National Educational Television documenting Mme. Lehmann’s master classes at the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara in July 1961. This film was professionally transferred to VHS in December 1987 and is available at the Lehmann Archives. VAI released a portion of the master classes on VHS and in 2005 published the classes complete on DVD. They were able to include a recently discovered CBC video interview from 1963 with Lehmann.
Dr. Jacobson was also the Executive Producer of the Remembering Lotte Lehmann video series featuring interviews with Maurice Abravanel, Gwendolyn Koldofsky and Frances Holden. These VHS tapes are also in the Lehmann Archives at UCSB.
The Vienna Opera also celebrated the Lehmann centennial. Here is Judith Sutcliffe’s report:
“In the summer of 1987 I heard that there was to be a special performance of Der Rosenkavalier at the Vienna Opera on Lotte Lehmann’s 100th birthday, February 27, 1988, followed by a lecture the next day by Marcel Prawy, of the Opera. I decided to go. Eric Hvølboll, a Santa Barbara lawyer, volunteered to accompany me. His mother, Elizabeth Hvølboll, is a local singer who studied at the Music Academy during Lehmann times. [actually taking part in a Lehmann master class]
In Vienna we contacted Hertha Schuch, one of Lehmann’s friends and admirers from the Golden Days before the war. The three of us sat in box seats for the Rosenkavalier performance, Eric and I much awed at the whole spectacle. During intermission we admired and photographed the extensive display of Lehmann photographs, programs, paintings and memorabilia that Marcel Prawy had assembled for this Lehmann weekend.
The opera was opulently performed. Hertha remarked afterward, however, with a sigh, ‘Lotte wasn’t there.’ Those whose memories hold her indelible image are rarely satisfied with today’s substitutes.
But Lotte was there the next day, and I was mightily surprised and overwhelmed. There was to be a lecture by Prawy. Somehow, I expected a small academic room somewhere in the opera building, and a lot of elderly people and some empty seats, it having been 50 years since Lehmann was on that stage…With that small expectation, I walked into the Vienna Opera itself, to box seats arranged by Hertha, and we looked out and up at a full house, thronged with people, 2,000 or more, all ages. There was a lively bustling of voices across the hall, I thought I spotted Grace Bumbry in one of the box seats.
Marcel Prawy came on stage at 2 p.m. and lectured–talked extemporaneously, I should say, with humor and vivacity–about Lehmann for two and a half hours. His comments were interspersed with tape recordings of Lehmann’s voice. I don’t know much about sound systems and hall acoustics, but I was thoroughly shaken by the resonance of her voice as it soared, clear and vibrant, filling that opera house with its magnificence. Tears, welled up in my eyes, and I could hear sniffles in the handkerchiefs across the house every time her voice rang out.
During his lecture, Prawy invited several colleagues to talk. He asked Egon Seefehlner, a past director of the Vienna Opera, to describe the indescribable, Lehmann’s voice. Seefehlner said simply that it was the only one that could make him weep.
We who are left with the legacy of her records, tend to listen to them in small living rooms, being careful not to disturb the neighbors with too much volume. There was a dimensional difference to hearing her recorded voice in the Vienna Opera, and I can only wonder at what the added dimension of her living fiber did to those who were born early enough, on the right side of the Atlantic, to hear. But I understood why all those people were there, weeping.
Seefehlner, if my understanding of German was anywhere accurate, said that he had first heard Lehmann sing when he was fourteen, and then many times after until the war. He met her again during the 1955 reopening of the Vienna Opera, the first time she returned after 1937.
He then said that his next meeting with Lehmann was in 1976 when he sat in his office at the Opera, staring in disbelief at a small bronze box on his desk labeled Lotte Lehmann. ‘All that was left of that glorious voice and presence was a mere handful of sand,’ he said. The urn of ashes had been sent from Santa Barbara for a memorial service on the marble steps of the Opera entryway, the old section which had survived the war. Her remains were buried in a place of honor in the Vienna cemetery.
As a special tribute to Lehmann, Grace Bumbry, her most famous student, came down to the stage to talk with Prawy about Lehmann’s influence as a teacher of Lieder and opera interpretation. Miss Bumbry sang Auf dem Kirchhofe, by Brahms, twice to demonstrate the dramatic and emotional difference in presentation that she had learned from Lehmann.
After the lecture, we walked through the snow back to Hertha Schuch’s apartment, and, as if we had not had quite enough, we watched with her a half hour TV presentation on Lehmann by Marcel Prawy. This, by the way, capped a week that contained four radio programs on Lehmann as well.”
That Sutcliffe article and excerpts have appeared in several publications.
Judy Sutcliffe was impressed with the level of Lehmann enthusiasm at the Centennial mentioned above and asked Centennial participants to sign up to receive a newsletter that would continue the sharing of Lehmann memories and information. Thus the Lotte Lehmann League was born. Newsletters were published from 1989 – 1994 and were mailed to hundreds of Lehmann fans around the world. These Newsletters have also found their way into libraries and archives and may be read in their entirety on this website.
I worked with Ms. Sutcliffe on the Lotte Lehmann League in compiling and editing the newsletter. In 1989 Judy and I obtained a grant to fly to Europe to uncover new Lehmann material… ultimately destined for the UCSB Lehmann Archive. We discovered photos, beautifully preserved on original glass negatives in the Max Rheinhardt Instititute in Salzburg, recorded interviews from the Austrian Broadcasting Company and much more. It was fascinating to talk to Lehmann’s recording engineer at Odeon, who, even at 90, could remember details musical, technical and personal. His memories can be found in the LLL newsletters.
It must be noted that many elements of Lehmann’s “career” after death were promoted and supported (sometimes financially) by Frances Holden. She allowed me, for instance, to rifle through her Lehmann recordings, where I discovered unreleased test pressings such as Schubert’s Nacht und Traüme which was published for the first time by RCA on CD in 1989. Support from Holden’s friends was also crucial. Holden had established a strong connection with the library at UCSB and a personal connection with its then director Joe Boissé. Other Holden friends included Judy Sutcliffe who was essential in the editing and publication of the first edition of Beaumont Glass’ Lehmann biography, which was underwritten by Holden.
Lehmann’s fame was enhanced in a different way when Dotsie Hellmann, a wealthy former singer and Lehmann fan, commissioned the American opera composer Thomas Pasatieri to write songs (which he later orchestrated) based on Lehmann’s poems. The resulting Sieben Lehmann Lieder are in print and in performance around the world. Along these same lines the art song I Never Knew was written by Ned Rorem in 2001 to Lehmann poetry in an English translation by Judy Sutcliffe. This was commissioned as the required song for the Lehmann Foundation’s CyberSing 2002, the international web-based art song contest. By the way, many composers of the past were inspired by Lehmann: Wilhelm Kienzl, Paul Redl, Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Robert Heger Fünf Gesänge nach Versen von Lotte Lehmann Op. 24, Leo Sach, Felix Weingartner: An den Schmerz (a song cycle dedicated to Lehmann), and others. Better known is the fact that Richard Strauss wrote several operas with Lehmann in mind. When these works are performed Lehmann’s name is often mentioned.
As might be expected, Lehmann’s birthplace, Perleberg, Germany, celebrates its famous daughter with an archive in the same building in which she attended school. This collection has received various Lehmann recordings, letters, photos and even her art works in donations from Eric Hvølboll and myself. Mr. Hvølboll bought Lehmann’s piano and shipped it to the Perleberg museum. It is also in Perleberg that the Lotte Lehmann Woche (Lotte Lehmann Week) takes place each year in August. Master classes, sometimes taught by former Lehmann pupils, and Lieder recitals are presented in the picturesque setting of this north German town. One may learn more about forthcoming celebrations at: http://www.lotte-lehmann-woche.de
The German documentary film director Rita Nassar produced the Lehmann tribute film Stimme des Herzens (Heart’s Sound) in 1990 which has been seen on both German and Austrian TV and is available (in German only) on the world wide web. It may also be seen at the Lehmann Archives at UCSB. Lehmann appeared in the MGM film Big City that is sometimes seen on TV and is available at UCSB as well. [Excerpts may be glimpsed on YouTube.]
Lehmann gave many of her recordings (including test pressings), art work, letters and memorabilia to initiate the Lotte Lehmann Collection at UCSB. The staff there, now directed by curator David Seubert, continues to catalog, translate and make Lehmann’s legacy available to the public. They present various exhibits of photos of her as well as her art work, and plan to have the whole collection cataloged and available on their website. In 2010 I donated my Lehmann collection to UCSB, which augments the original Lehmann archive, but is kept as a separate collection.
A separate quite complete collection of Lehmann’s commercial recordings is housed by the Music Department at UCSB.
Frances Holden supplemented the Lehmann Archive over the years after Lehmann’s death, but willed most of the remainder of Lehmann’s estate to the Music Academy of the West. There one may find Lehmann’s scores as well as some books, photos and newspaper clippings. The then President of the Music Academy of the West, David Kuehn, gave this collection of instantaneous cut acetates, 78s and LPs to the Marr Sound Archives at the University of Missouri, Kansas City which was able to handle such fragile documents. The former Dean of the Conservatory of Music at UMKC, Kuehn was familiar with the Sound Archives’ collections and services. After Holden’s death, this collection had been in storage for some time at the Music Academy and he wanted to find a good home for it. At UMKC the Lehmann LPs and acetates collection are maintained separately from the general collection. In 2010 I donated Lehmann LPs that were not already part of their collections. The Lehmann collection greatly compliments the Fred Calland collection, which includes 34,000 vocal recordings.
Since UCSB had collected such a great amount of Lehmann recordings, etc., in 1994 I donated my collection of Lehmann recordings, photos, letters, memorabilia, books, etc. to the Stanford University Archive of Recorded Sound, Braun Music Center. I augmented this collection in 2010. Other singers of her time that are well documented in this archive include Melchior, Flagstad, Crooks, Chamlee and Bonelli. The Lehmann Collection is accessible in the Archive to all researchers.
Stanford has added to the collection in a few small ways. A couple of years ago they had access to some National Concert and Artists Corporation photographs. They made a special effort to acquire any Lehmann photographs from these files, including duplicates (which might help making reproductions for books and articles easier).
In 2011 I donated Lehmann 78s, LPs, CDs, DVDs, as well as printed material to the Yale Historical Sound Recordings
In 1999 I established the Lotte Lehmann Foundation, to preserve and promote Lehmann’s legacy and to further the appreciation and study of art song. A semi-annual newsletter reporting on the Foundation’s activities was distributed world-wide. The Advisors included Lehmann students as well as other artists and administrators who appreciate Lehmann’s unique place in the classical vocal world. The Foundation’s website was visited by thousands each month. It included samples of her writings, recordings, photos, art work and articles about her. The Foundation is now inactive.
In 1990 Kathy Hinton Brown wrote Lotte Lehmann; Artist Teacher for her doctoral thesis at University of Missouri-Kansas City. A vocal student of Martha Longmire, a former Lehmann student, Dr. Brown was given access to tapes of Lehmann’s interviews and master classes from the Lehmann archives at UCSB. The dissertation includes transcriptions of her conversations and excerpts from master classes, using various arias, Lieder, and mélodies to illustrate her philosophy and instruction of musical interpretation and stage presence. A readable version, Lotte Lehmann: Her Artistic Legacy, is currently in the hands of an editor, with hopes of publication in 2012.
In 2000 VAI released a VHS cassette of excerpts from Lehmann’s NEA master classes of 1965 held at the Music Academy of the West. Besides the two master class DVDs, VAI also released another Lehmann CD covering live performances and excerpts from the Columbia radio broadcasts.
During 2001 – 2002 Grace Bumbry sang a series of European and US recitals dedicated to Lehmann.
Marilyn Horne wrote extensively about Lehmann in her autobiography and also performed recitals called “Songs Lehmann Taught Me.”
In 2001, the 25th anniversary of Lehmann’s death year was marked by memorial broadcasts of filmed interviews from the 1960s in Germany and Austria. In November 2001 the Lehmann Archives at UCSB presented an exhibit of photos of Lehmann, as well as some of her own artwork from the collection.
A web-essay analysis by Kenneth Smith of Lehmann’s vocal techniques as demonstrated in Schubert recordings sampled across the years was presented in 2002. Lehmann’s vibrato, portamento, rubato, breathing, timbre, and expression of the text was analyzed with graphs and sound excerpts. I am trying to locate the original website and will offer it as soon as I find it!
Throughout 2005 former Lehmann students and Lehmann Foundation advisers recorded spoken and sung tributes to Lehmann that was published as a CD (Fall 2006) by Arabesque Records. A second such tribute may be found within these pages.
To mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Lehmann, Jon Tolansky produced two hour long programs (Program 1 Opera Program 2 Lieder) on Lehmann’s career for WFMT and its affiliates. For this project, Tolansky was able to interview Thomas Hampson, Marilyn Horne, Graham Johnson, Christopher Nupen, Charles Osborne, Carol Neblett and others.
In 2010 at the death (at about 102) of Lehmann’s close friend Hertha Schuch, her Lehmann collection was donated to the Vienna-based Theater Archiv.
CD re-releases have continued without letup. The standard fare has been expanded to include unusual performances such as a live Frauenliebe und Leben with Ulanowsky from Music and Arts. And Pristine Audio has issued a lot of Lehmann in their unique sonic remastering. Naxos has re-released Die Walküre and Rosenkavalier and a series of six CDs of Lehmann’s Lieder recordings, all with the latest in noise reduction technology.
I’m producing a multiple-CD release for the Music and Arts label of Lotte Lehmann “rarities”. This will include radio broadcasts, test pressings, a few 78s that haven’t been released as lps or CDs and a few surprises.
If you notice Lotte Lehmann mentioned in the media, or find new CDs etc., please let me know at “Your Input.”