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Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

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A world renowned opera singer, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, DBE, was born Olga Maria Elisabeth Friederike Schwarzkopf in Jarotschin in 1915. Technically a German born vocalist -- her hometown would become part of Poland in 1919 -- she made her first real waves in Vienna, and was extremely well received in Great Britain. Her first performance took place in 1928, in Magdeburg, Germany. That role, as Eurydice in a school production of Orfeo ed Euridice, soon led to a formal musical education in 1934, when Schwarzkopf moved to Berlin to pursue her operatic goals. While her early years as a professional should have been focused on her musical abilities, her decision to join the Nazi party made her a bit of a pariah, if only in the United States. 1942 would see Schwarzkopf joining the Vienna State Opera, which in turn led to her being granted Austrian citizenship. From there, tours all over the continent followed, including her debut in England at the Royal Opera House in 1948. Her professional career with British classical producer Walter Legge soon blossomed into romance, leading to a second change of citizenship for Schwarzkopf, who became a servant of the Queen, as it were, a citizen of Great Britain through marriage. Over the next couple of decades, Schwarzkopf continued to gain accolades and attention, but in 1971, gave her final operatic performance in Brussels. Turning away from the large scale operas, Schwarzkopf began performing in a series of lieder recitals, but had to shift gears and focus on teaching -- at schools such as Juilliard -- after a heart attack in 1979. Eventually, all of Schwarzkopf's work, performance, and teaching led to a series of very high accolades, including a doctorate from Cambridge, and the award of Dame of the British Empire in 1992. In 2006, at the age of 90, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf passed away at her home in Austria. Her many awards, including the above as well as the Mozart Medal and the Hugo-Wolf Medal, are perfect example of what she achieved and her recordings -- of which there are a sizable amount -- are proof. ~ Chris True

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December 9, 1915 in Jarotschin, Germany

Years Active:

'40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s