Obituary: Tiana Lemnitz

Tiana Luise Lemnitz, opera singer: born Metz 26 October 1897; died Berlin 5 February 1994.

THE GRAND Opera Season of 1936 at Covent Garden opened on 27 April with Die Meistersinger, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Eva was sung, to everyone's great satisfaction, by Tiana Lemnitz, a German soprano making her house debut. Already well-known throughout central Europe, Lemnitz was found an enchanting singer and a subtle actress. Her only other role that year was Oktavian in Der Rosenkavalier, which received even higher praise from the critics and even warmer acclaim from the audience.

She returned to Covent Garden in 1938, to sing Pamina in Die Zauberflote, Elsa in Lohengrin and Sieglinde in Die Walkure, as well as Eva and Oktavian. Although still active for some years after the Second World War, Lemnitz did not appear again at the Royal Opera House. Invited to the Metropolitan in 1938, she was unable to accept the engagement and never appeared in the United States.

Lemnitz was born in 1897 in Metz, where she attended the musical academy. Later she studied at the conservatory in Frankfurt-am- Main, making her debut in 1920 at Heillbronn in the title-role of Lortzing's Undine. After engagements at Aachen (1922-28) and Hanover (1928-33), in 1934 she joined the Berlin State Opera, remaining with the company until her retirement in 1951. A regular guest artist at the Dresden State Opera, she sang at the Vienna State Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires and at Salzburg, where during the 1939 festival she scored one of her finest triumphs as Agathe in Der Freischutz.

Though Lemnitz excelled in German Romantic operas, she sang many roles outside that repertory - all of them in German. Much admired as a delightful Micaela in Carmen and a touching Mimi in La Boheme, she sang Verdi's Leonora (Il trovatore), Elisabetta (Don Carlo), Aida and Desdemona with equal success. Marenka in The Bartered Bride and the title-role of Moniuszko's Halka offered her two spirited heroines, while she also sang Milada in Dalibor and Tchaikovsky's Tatyana as well as Nastasya in The Enchantress. However, it is for her interpretations of Mozart, Weber, the lighter soprano parts of Wagner, and Strauss that Lemnitz will be remembered. Her Pamina, which made good use of the exquisitely floated pianissimi in which she specialised, was among the finest of her generation. In the recording of Die Zauberflote which she made with Beecham in 1937, a year before she sang the role at Covent Garden, she sounds rather matronly (she was exactly 40), but, by all accounts, in the theatre her radiant presence allied to her beautiful voice gave a perfect illusion of youth. As Elsa, Elisabeth in Tannhauser and Sieglinde she was greatly admired, but her finest Wagnerian role was surely Eva, which allowed her ample opportunity for the display of a delicious sense of humour.

Oktavian also gave the soprano several comic opportunities, but in Der Rosenkavalier it is above all the strong emotion and the gorgeous tone with which she charged a smooth vocal line that are so memorable. The emotion was even more evident when Lemnitz, like many another soprano before and since, exchanged the role of Oktavian for that of the Marschallin, as can be heard in the complete recording made in 1950 with Rudolf Kempe as conductor. Her Oktavian is immortalised by some excerpts made in the early 1940s, which give at least an idea of the effect that she must have made in the part on stage. Arabella is another Strauss role in which Lemnitz appears to have been perfectly cast, with her gentle determination and a controlled but deep emotion that is never allowed to spoil the vocal line. Again, she only recorded excerpts from the opera, but they are among her finest discs.

After the war Lemnitz continued to sing in Berlin; the State Opera had been destroyed and the company appeared temporarily at the Admiralspalast. In 1950 she returned to Buenos Aires, where her interpretation of Janacek's Jenufa was particularly admired. Donna Anna was another of the roles that she sang at this period in her career, together with the Marschallin and Eva. She took part in a complete recording of Die Meistersinger, made in 1951 at Dresden, and conducted by Kempe. Although by now in her middle fifties, Lemnitz sounds convincingly young and high-spirited.

In 1955 the State Opera reopened and here two years later, on 7 April 1957, Tiana Lemnitz made her farewell at a concert in the Apollo-saal. After groups of songs by Brahms and Wolf she sang Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder. There was not a dry eye in the hall.

(Photograph omitted)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game