ON THE SECOND night of the first Glyndebourne season in 1934, Irene Eisinger, an unknown - to British audiences - soprano who sang Despina in Cosi fan tutte, scored a great personal success. She became a firm favourite at Glyndebourne, returning there each year but one, until the outbreak of the Second World War forced the theatre to close.
Although best remembered for her Mozart soubrette roles, especially Despina and Blonde, and parts such as Aennchen in Der Freischutz, she was also much admired in operetta, in particular as Adele in Die Fledermaus, which she sang at Covent Garden, and as Arsena in Der Zigeunerbaron. She appeared in one of Charles B. Cochran's revues at the Adelphi Theatre. Her voice, bright-toned, light and very flexible, and her charming, diminutive appearance, invariably drew adjectives such as 'enchanting' and 'winsome' from the
Irene Eisinger was born in Kosel, of Jewish parentage. She studied with Paula Mark-Neusser in Vienna, making her debut in 1926 at Basel. From 1928 to 1932 she was engaged in Berlin, appearing at the City Opera, and at the Kroll Opera under Otto Klemperer. She also made guest appearances at the Vienna State Opera and from 1930 to 1933 sang at the Salzburg Festival. During this period she made several films. Forced to leave Germany in 1933, she was engaged at the German Theatre in Prague until 1937, and also sang in Brussels and
Meanwhile, on 29 May 1934, Eisinger made her British debut at Glyndebourne as Despina. The following year she added Papagena in Die Zauberflote and Blonde in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail, both of them extremely well received, to her list of roles there. In 1936, though she did not appear at the Festival, Eisinger sang the Aquarellen waltz by Josef Strauss at a Sunday afternoon concert at Glyndebourne, when 600 of John Christie's employees and tenants presented Mr and Mrs Christie with a George I silver mug, to commemorate the birth of their son George on 31 December 1934. To accommodate everyone, the concert was repeated after the presentation.
In 1936 CB Cochran, who had been entranced by her Papagena the previous summer, engaged Eisinger for Follow the Sun at the Adelphi. In this revue she sang 'Love is a Dancing Thing', a popular number by Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz that was always much applauded. 'He (Cochran) has done very well to engage Miss Irene Eisinger,' wrote James Agate in the Sunday Times on 9 February. 'A beautiful little lady whose small but charming voice is perhaps more suited to Glyndebourne's flowery meads than to Covent Garden's' Despite Agate's opinion, on 30 December that year Irene Eisinger made her Covent Garden debut during Beecham's Winter Season, singing Gretel in Hansel und Gretel (in German), with Maggie Teyte as Hansel. A week later she sang Adele in Die Fledermaus (in English), winning a particular triumph with the laughing song, 'Mein Herr Marquis'.
For the next three seasons Irene Eisinger returned to Glyndebourne, singing both Susanna and Barbarina in Le nozze di Figaro as well as her other roles. By now she was living in Britain and in 1939 she sang Ilya in a university production of Idomeneo at Cambridge; in 1940, when Glyndebourne toured The Beggar's Opera, ending with a four-month season at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, she took over the role of Polly Peachum from Audrey Mildmay, who had contracted German measles, during the London run.
After the war, in 1949, she sang Despina again with Glyndebourne at the Edinburgh Festival. The Glyndebourne Cosi fan tutte, conducted by Fritz Busch and recorded almost complete in 1935, gives a very good idea of Irene Eisinger's voice, her stylish singing and her delightful personality.
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