The revisionists are out to whitewash the great soprano around the centenary of her birth which falls tomorrow.
A Guardian journalist writes today: ‘ Whatever else she may have been, she remains one of the 20th century’s definitive artists.’ Definitive, in what sense? She created no new works*, influenced no-one and left few memories of anything except a lovely voice.
The two things you need to know are these:
1 She was an early and enthusiastic Nazi, joining the Party in 1933 and never renouncing her affinity. Her biographer Alan Jefferson believed she was the mistress of Hans Frank – governor-general of occupied Poland with a major role in the Holocaust – and that the 12 months she was off stage in 1943-44 were spent largely in his company, possibly overcoming a pregnancy. On legal advice, Alan was unable to publish the evidence in her lifetime (or his), but the dates stack up. Schwarzkopf issued a 133-page private rebuttal to Alan’s biography but never challenged it in court.
2 She was the least agreeable, generous and truthful of colleagues. The only hour I ever spent with her was filled with gleeful tales of how she had humiliated candidates for her masterclass the night before. The late Lotte Klemperer sent me three single-spaced sheets of untruths told by Schwarzkopf in the book on her husband, Walter Legge.
Sensational voice, beautiful face, unpleasant human being.
*other than Anne Trulove in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress