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Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Contralto, Mezzo-soprano)

Born: June 15, 1861 - Lieben, near Prague, Czechoslovakia (than Austria)
Died: November 17, 1936 - Los Angeles, California, USA

The famous Austrian-born American contralto and mezzo-soprano, Ernestine Schumann-Heink (née Rössler), was born to a father who an officer in the Austrian army; and to an Italian mother who was an amateur singer. In 1872 she was sent to the Ursuline Convent in Prague, where she sang in the church choir; after lessons from Marietta von Leclair in Graz, she made her first public appearance there in 1876 as soloist in L.v. Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

In October 1878 Ernestine Schumann-Heink made her operatic debut at the Dresden Court Opera as Azucena, where she sang until 1882. She also continued her studies with Karl Krebs, Franz Wullner, and others. From 1883 to 1897 she was a member of the Hamburg Opera; appeared with the company on its visit to London's Covent Garden in 1892, where she sang Erda, Fricka, and Brangäne. She was a regular singer at the Bayreuth Festivals from 1896 to 1914. She appeared at Covent Garden from 1897 to 1901. She also sang with the Berlin Royal Opera. She made her USA debut as Ortrud in Chicago in November 1898, a role she chose for her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in January 1899. She cancelled her contract with the Berlin Royal Opera in order to remain a member of the Metropolitan Opera until 1903. Afterwards she appeared there intermittently until 1932. She created the role of Klytemnestra in Elektra in Dresden in January 1909). Ernestine made her last operatic appearance as Erda at the Metropolitan in March 1932.

Ernestine Schumann-Heink became a naturalised American citizen in 1908. During the last years of her life, she was active mainly as a teacher. Her operatic repertoire included about 150 parts. Her voice, of an even quality in all registers, possessed great power, making it peculiarly suitable to Wagnerian roles. She was married in 1882 to Ernst Heink of Dresden, from whom she was later divorced. In 1893 she married the actor Paul Schumann in Hamburg; he died in 1904. She assumed the names of both Schumann and Heink. Her 3rd husband was a Chicago lawyer, William Rapp, Jr., whom she married in 1905 and then subsequently divorced in 1914.

Source: Bakerís Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (October 2002)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Under her name


Aria from BWV 68

Links to other Sites

Ernestine Schumann-Heink (San Diego Historical Society)
Opera Shop: Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Calton Higginbotham)
Schumann-Heink, Ernestine (Cantabile Subito)
Ernestine Schumann-Heink (Classical CD Review)
xrefer: Schumann-Heink, (née Rössler) Ernestine (Lieben, 1861-1936)

Schumann-Heink, Ernestine. (The Columbia Encyclopedia)
Find A Grave: Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Operatic Contraltos
Schumann-Heink, Ernestine (Info Please)

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