A Vienna Opera legend has died, aged 97

Lilian Fayer’s father had a photo studio opposite the Vienna State Opera. She began taking portraits of singers in 1942 and stopped only for the couple of years when performances ceased towards the end of the war.

Lilian married the Vienna Philharmonic concertmaster Walter Barylli and had the run of the house. Herbert von Karajan, ever aware of his image, was a particular admirer of her work.

The Fayer Archive consists of some 30,000 photographs, taken at Vienna and at the Salzburg festival.



Herbert von Karajan. Autographed postcard.lilian fayer

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  • Mr. Barylli’s first wife. They had two sons together — the first before they were married, because of the infamous German ‘race laws.’ She was Jewish, and they couldn’t marry. It must have been terribly difficult for them during the war — and also in the immediate aftermath. They lived in the elegant Heinrichshof, directly across from the opera. They were in the cellar with their infant son when the Americans bombed the opera, and also scored a direct hit on the Heinrichshof. Mr. Barylli was concertmaster of the orchestra, and, in this instance, a member of the fire brigade that tried to extinguish the fire — all the while having lost his home and concerned for the safety of his family — and she with his.

    • a bit unclear. Nowhere have I read she was Jewish moreover from what I’ve read she continued to work during occupied Vienna?!?
      Could you be more specific on this part? Did she divorce then as you claim she was Baylli’s first wife?

  • Fred — I don’t know what’s unclear. It’s not the kind of thing that’s published anywhere, though Mr. Barylli did speak of it in a broadcast interview a year or so ago, specifically citing their inability to marry due to the German ‘race laws.’ I don’t think that interview is still available. If it’s important to you, I can try to find out. Otherwise, you may have to take my word for it.

    Lillian Fayer and Walter Barylli married immediately after the war’s end — September 29, 1945. Mr. Barylli has told the story of his life in a wonderful book: “Ein Philharmoniker einmal anders.” If you read German, you can find a gripping description of his wartime experiences there, including the bombing of 12 March 1945. He also tells the story of the bombing in a video available online, beginning a few seconds after the half-hour mark: http://vimeo.com/72034670.

    Mr. Barylli is still very much alive, and lives with his second wife, the elegant Elsa B. Remarkable, dear, gifted people, all.

  • Dear Robert,
    thanks for the clarifications and yes I do read German, will certainly look out for the book.
    Yet you state she was Jewish i just wondered how she continued to live and work in Vienna (got that from internet sources) during the Nazi horror without being -thank God- persecuted or put on transport? Any additional info on this aspect? Appreciated

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