Lilli Lehmann |

Lilli Lehmann |

Lilli Lehmann

Date of birth
Date of death
Voice type

smart singer

It was she who, with the curtain raised, once cursed the bandmaster with a “donkey”, she slapped the editor-in-chief of one newspaper who published an obscene note about her, she terminated the contract with the court theater when she was denied a long vacation, she became stubborn and adamant, if anything it went against her wishes, and in the sacred halls of Bayreuth she even dared to object to Cosima Wagner herself.

So, before us is a real prima donna? In the full sense of the word. For twenty years, Lilly Lehman was considered the first lady in opera, at least in German creative circles and overseas. She was showered with flowers and awarded titles, laudatory songs were composed about her, she was given all kinds of honors; and although she never achieved the grandiose popularity of Jenny Lind or Patty, the rapture with which she was bowed down – and among the admirers of Leman there were very important persons – only grew from this.

They appreciated not only the singer’s voice, but also her skill and human qualities. True, it would never have occurred to anyone to repeat the words of Richard Wagner about her, said about the great Schroeder-Devrient, that she allegedly “has no voice.” Soprano Lilly Leman cannot be called a natural gift, before which one can only bow in admiration; virtuoso voice, its beauty and range, having once reached its maturity throughout the entire creative path, continued to play the first role: but not as a gift from above, but as a result of tireless work. At that time, the thoughts of Leman, a one-of-a-kind prima, were absorbed by the singing technique, sound formation, psychology and precise alignment in singing. She presented her reflections in the book “My Vocal Art”, which in the twentieth century remained an indispensable guide to vocals for a long time. The singer herself convincingly proved the correctness of her theories: thanks to her impeccable technique, Leman retained the strength and elasticity of her voice, and even in her old age she completely coped with the difficult part of Donna Anna!

Adeline Patti, the wonder voice, also performed well into old age. When asked what the secret of singing was, she usually answered with a smile: “Ah, I don’t know!” Smiling, she wanted to appear naive. Genius by nature is often ignorant of the ultimate “how” in art! What a striking contrast with Lilly Lehman and her attitude to creativity! If Patty “knew nothing”, but knew everything, Leman knew everything, but at the same time doubted her abilities.

“Step by step is the only way we can improve. But in order to achieve the highest skill, the art of singing is too difficult, and life is too short. Such confessions from the lips of any other singer would have sounded like beautiful words for the notebook of her students. For the performer and tireless worker Lilly Lehman, these words are nothing but experienced reality.

She was not a child prodigy and “could not boast of a dramatic voice since childhood”, on the contrary, she got a pale voice, and even with asthma. When Lilly was admitted to the theater, she wrote to her mother: “I never thought that there were voices more colorless than mine, but here six more singers with voices weaker than mine are engaged.” What a path has been traveled to the famous highly dramatic Leonora from Fidelio and the heroic singer of Wagner’s Bayreuth! On this path, neither sensational debuts nor meteoric rises awaited her.

With Lilly Lehman into the diva arena came a smart, knowledge-focused singer; the knowledge acquired is not limited only to the improvement of the voice, but it is as if they create expanding circles around the center in which the singing person stands. This smart, self-confident and energetic woman is characterized by the desire for universality. As part of the stage art, it is confirmed by the richness of the singing repertoire. Just yesterday in Berlin, Lehman sang the part of Enkhen from The Free Gunner, and today she has already appeared on the stage of London’s Covent Garden as Isolde. How did a frivolous soubrette from a comic opera and a dramatic heroine coexist in one person? Incredible versatility Lehman retained throughout her life. A fan of Wagner, she found the courage at the height of the German cult of Wagner to declare herself a supporter of Verdi’s La Traviata and choose Norma Bellini as her favorite party; Mozart was beyond competition, all his life he remained her “musical homeland”.

In adulthood, after the opera, Leman conquered concert halls as a masterful chamber singer, and the more she saw, heard and learned, the less the role of the prima donna answered her desire for perfection. The singer, in her own way, struggled with the theatrical routine that reigned even on the famous stages, finally acting as a director: an act unparalleled and innovative for that time.

Praeceptor Operae Germanicae (Master of the German Opera – Lat.), Singer, director, organizer of festivals, herald of reforms for which she energetically advocated, writer and teacher – all this was combined by a universal woman. It is obvious that the figure of Leman does not fit into the traditional ideas about the prima donna. Scandals, fabulous fees, love affairs that gave the appearance of opera divas a piquant shade of frivolity – nothing like this can be found in Leman’s career. The life of the singer was distinguished by the same simplicity as her modest name. The sensational erotic desires of Schroeder-Devrient, the passion of Malibran, rumors (even if exaggerated) about the suicides of desperate lovers Patti or Nilsson – all this could not be combined with this energetic business woman.

“High growth, mature noble forms and measured movements. The hands of a queen, the extraordinary beauty of the neck and the impeccable fit of the head, which is found only in thoroughbred animals. Whitened with gray hair, not wanting to hide the age of their owner, a keen piercing look of black eyes, a large nose, a strictly defined mouth. When she smiled, her stern face was overshadowed by the sunlight of polite superiority, condescension and slyness.

L. Andro, an admirer of her talent, captured a sixty-year-old woman in his sketch “Lilli Leman”. You can look at the portrait of the singer in detail, comparing it with photographs of that time, you can try to finish it in verse, but the majestic strict image of the prima donna will remain unchanged. This elderly, but still respectable and self-confident woman can by no means be called reserved or phlegmatic. In her personal life, a critical mind warned her against frivolous acts. In his book My Way, Lehman recalls how she nearly passed out when, at rehearsals in Bayreuth, Richard Wagner introduced her, still a young actress on the threshold of fame, to production assistant Fritz Brandt. It was love at first sight, on both sides so life-affirming and romantic, which is found only in girlish novels. Meanwhile, the young man turned out to be morbidly jealous, he tormented and tormented Lilly with unfounded suspicions until she finally, after a long internal struggle that almost cost her her life, broke off the engagement. More peaceful was her marriage to the tenor Paul Kalisch, they often performed together on the same stage, long before Leman married him in adulthood.

Those rare cases when the singer gave vent to her feelings had nothing to do with the usual whims of prima donnas, but concealed deeper reasons, for they concerned the most intimate – art. The editor of a Berlin newspaper, counting on the eternal success of gossip, published a false article with juicy details from the life of a young opera singer. It said that the unmarried Leman was allegedly expecting a child. Like the goddess of revenge, the singer appeared in the editorial office, but this miserable type every time tried to shirk responsibility. For the third time, Leman ran into him on the stairs and did not miss him. When the editor began to get out in every possible way in the office, not wanting to retract what had been said, she gave him a tasty slap in the face. “All in tears, I returned home and, through sobs, could only shout to my mother: “He got it!” And the bandmaster whom Le Mans called a donkey on tour in Toronto, Canada? He distorted Mozart – isn’t that a crime?

She did not understand jokes when it came to art, especially when it came to her beloved Mozart. I could not stand negligence, mediocrity and mediocrity, with the same hostility I met the arbitrariness of narcissistic performers and the pursuit of originality. In love with great composers, she did not flirt, it was a deep, serious feeling. Leman always dreamed of singing Leonora from Beethoven’s Fidelio, and when she first appeared on stage in this role, so memorably created by Schroeder-Devrient, she almost fainted from excess of joy. By this time, she had already sung for 14 years at the Berlin Court Opera, and only the illness of the first dramatic singer gave Leman a long-awaited chance. The question of the theatrical attendant, whether she would like to replace, sounded like a bolt from the blue – he “disappeared, having received my consent, and I, being unable to control my feelings and trembling all over, right where I was standing, sobbing loudly, knelt down, and hot tears of joy flowed onto my hands, hands folded in gratitude to my mother, the person to whom I owe so much! It took some time before I came to my senses and asked if this was true?! I am Fidelio in Berlin! Great God, I am Fidelio!”

One can imagine with what self-forgetfulness, with what sacred seriousness she played the part! Since then, Leman has never parted with this only Beethoven opera. Later, in her book, which is a short course of practical mind and experience, she gave an analysis not only of the title role, but of all the roles in this opera in general. In an effort to convey her knowledge, to serve art and its tasks, the singer’s pedagogical talent is also manifested. The title of prima donna forced her to make high demands not only on herself, but also on others. Work for her has always been associated with such concepts as duty and responsibility. “Any spectator is satisfied with all the best – especially when it comes to art … The artist is faced with the task of educating the audience, showing his highest achievements, ennobling her and, not paying attention to her bad taste, to fulfill her mission to the end,” she demanded . “And whoever expects only wealth and pleasure from art will soon get used to seeing in his object a usurer, whose debtor he will remain for life, and this usurer will take the most ruthless interest from him.”

Education, mission, duty to art – what kind of thoughts does a prima donna have! Could they really come from the mouth of Patti, Pasta or Catalani? The guardian of the nineteenth-century prima donnas, Giacomo Rossini, a sincere admirer of Bach and Mozart, wrote shortly before his death: “Can we Italians forget for a second that pleasure is the cause and ultimate goal of music.” Lilly Lehman was not a prisoner of her art, and one cannot deny her a sense of humor at all. “Humor, the most life-giving element in any performance … is an indispensable seasoning for performances in the theater and in life,” in modern times at the turn of the century “completely pushed into the background in all operas,” the singer often complained. Is pleasure the cause and ultimate goal of music? No, an impassable abyss separates her from the idle ideal of Rossini, and it is not surprising that Leman’s fame did not go beyond the German and Anglo-Saxon centers of culture.

Its ideals are entirely borrowed from German humanism. Yes, in Leman you can see a typical representative of the big bourgeoisie from the time of Emperor Wilhelm, brought up in humanistic traditions. She became the embodiment of the most noble features of this era. From the vantage point of our day, taught by the experience of the monstrous perversion of the German national idea experienced under Hitler, we give a fairer assessment of the positive aspects of that idealized and in many respects caricatured era, which the outstanding thinkers Friedrich Nietzsche and Jakob Burckhardt put in such a ruthless light. In Lilly Lehman you will not find anything about the decline of morals, about German national anti-Semitism, about impudent megalomania, about the fatal “goal achieved”. She was a real patriot, stood up for the victory of the German army in France, mourned the death of Moltke together with the Berliners, and the respect for the throne and the aristocracy, due to the soloist of the court opera of the kingdom of Prussia, sometimes dulled the beautiful eyesight of the singer, so insightful in her work.<...>

The indestructible pillars of education for Lilly Lehman were Schiller, Goethe and Shakespeare in literature, and Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Wagner and Verdi in music. Spiritual humanism was joined by active missionary activity of the singer. Lehman revived the Mozart Festival in Salzburg, which was threatened by a thousand difficulties, became a patron of the arts and one of the founders of this festival, zealously and tirelessly advocated for the protection of animals, trying to attract the attention of Bismarck himself. The singer saw her true calling in this. The animal and plant worlds were not separated from its sacred object – art, but represented only the other side of life in all the unity of its diversity. Once the house of the singer in Scharfling on the Mondsee near Salzburg was flooded, but when the water subsided, apparently, there were still little animals on the terrace, and the merciful Samaritan woman fed even bats and moles with bread and pieces of meat.

Like Malibran, Schroeder-Devrient, Sontag, Patti and many other outstanding singers, Lilly Lehman was born into a family of actors. Her father, Karl August Lehmann, was a dramatic tenor, her mother, nee Maria Löw, was a soprano harpist, she performed for many years in the court theater in Kassel under the direction of Louis Spohr. But the most important event in her life was her relationship with the young Richard Wagner. They were connected by close friendship, and the great composer called Mary his “first love”. After marriage, Maria Löw’s career ended. Life with a handsome, but quick-tempered and drinking man soon turned into a real nightmare. She decided on a divorce, and soon she was offered a position as a harpist at the Prague Theatre, and in 1853 the young woman went to the capital of Bohemia by mail, taking with her two daughters: Lilly, who was born on November 24, 1848 in Würzburg, and Maria, three years older than the latter. of the year.

Lilly Lehman never tired of praising her mother’s love, self-sacrifice and resilience. The prima donna owed her not only the art of singing, but everything else; mother gave lessons, and from childhood Lilly accompanied her students on the piano, gradually getting used to the world of music. Thus, even before the start of independent performances, she already had a surprisingly rich repertoire. They lived in dire need. The wonderful city with hundreds of towers was then a musical province. Playing in the orchestra of the local theater did not provide sufficient livelihood, and in order to provide for himself, he had to earn lessons. Long gone are those magical times when Mozart staged the premiere of his Don Giovanni here, and Weber was a bandmaster. In the memoirs of Lilly Leman nothing is said about the revival in Czech music, there is not a word about the premieres of Smetana, about The Bartered Bride, about the failure of Dalibor, which so excited the Czech bourgeoisie.

Angular thin Lilly Leman turned seventeen when she made her debut on the stage of the Estates Theater in the role of the First Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. But only two weeks pass, and the novice Lilly sings the main part – by pure chance, saving the performance. In the middle of the performance, the director of the theater was too rude to the performer of the role of Pamina, who had convulsions from nervous tension, she had to be sent home. And suddenly something amazing happened: the blushing debutante Lilly Lehman volunteered to sing this part! Did she teach her? Not a drop! Leman Sr., having heard the announcement of the leading director, rushed on stage in horror to take away the role of Pamina from Fräulein Löw (for fear of failure, even in the small role of the First Lady, she did not dare to act under her real name) and thereby save the performance. But the young singer did not hesitate for a second and the public liked it, although she was completely unprepared. How many times will she have to test herself on substitutions in the future! Leman showed one of the most brilliant examples during her tour in America. In the Wagnerian tetralogy “The Ring of the Nibe-Lung”, where she played Brunnhilde, the performer of the role of Frikka in “Rheingold Gold” refused to perform. At four in the afternoon, Lilly was asked if she could sing for Frikka that evening; at half past five, Lilly and her sister began to look over a part that she had never sung before; At a quarter to seven I went to the theater, at eight I stood on the stage; there was not enough time for the final scene, and the singer memorized it, standing backstage, while Wotan, in the company of Loge, descended into Nibelheim. Everything went great. In 1897, Wagner’s music was considered the most difficult contemporary music. And imagine, in the whole part Leman made one single minor mistake in intonation. Her personal acquaintance with Richard Wagner happened in her youth in 1863 in Prague, where the musician, surrounded by scandals and fame, conducted his own concert. Leman’s mother and her two daughters visited the composer’s house every day. “The poor fellow is surrounded by honor, but he still does not have enough to live on,” said his mother. The daughter was fond of Wagner. Not only the unusual appearance of the composer attracted her attention – “a yellow housecoat made of damask, a red or pink tie, a large black silk cape with a satin lining (in which he came to rehearsals) – no one dressed like that in Prague; I looked into my eyes and could not hide my surprise. Wagner’s music and words left a much deeper imprint on the soul of a fifteen-year-old girl. One day she sang something to him, and Wagner got excited about the idea of ​​adopting her so that the girl would perform all his works! As Lilly soon found out, Prague had nothing more to offer her as a singer. Without hesitation, in 1868 she accepted the invitation of the Danzig city theater. A rather patriarchal way of life reigned there, the director was in constant need of money, and his wife, a kind-hearted person, even while sewing shirts, did not stop speaking in pathetic German high tragedy. A vast field of activity opened up before young Lilly. Every week she learned a new role, only now it was the main parts: Zerlina, Elvira, Queen of the Night, Rossini’s Rosina, Verdi’s Gilda and Leonora. In the northern city of the patricians, she lived only half a year, large theaters have already begun to hunt for the favorite of the Danzig public. Lilly Lehman chose Leipzig, where her sister was already singing. The theater director’s name was Heinrich Laube, and everything Lilly learned from this outstanding man left a deep imprint on her heart.

Summer 1870, Berlin: The first thing the young soloist of the Royal Opera saw in the Prussian capital were special editions of newspapers and festive processions in front of the royal palace. People cheered the news from the theater of war in France, the opening of the new season began with a patriotic action on stage, during which the actors of the court opera sang the national anthem and the Song of Borussia in chorus. At that time, Berlin was not yet a world city, but its “Opera under the Lindens” – the theater on the street Unter den Linden – thanks to Huelsen’s successful engagements and sensitive leadership, had a good reputation. Mozart, Meyerbeer, Donizetti, Rossini, Weber played here. The works of Richard Wagner appeared on the stage, overcoming the desperate resistance of the director. Personal reasons played a decisive role: in 1848, officer Hülsen, the scion of a noble family, participated in the suppression of the uprising, while on the side of the rebels, the young Kapellmeister Wagner fought, inspired by the revolutionary alarm and climbed, if not on the barricades, then on the church bell tower for sure. The theater director, an aristocrat, could not forget this for a long time.

At the same time, there were two outstanding Wagner performers in his troupe: the heroic tenor Albert Niemann and the first Bayreuth Wotan Franz Betz. For Lilly Lehman, Nieman turned into a radiant idol, into a “guiding spirit that leads everyone along”… Genius, strength and skill were intertwined with authority. Leman did not blindly admire the art of her colleagues, but always treated them with respect. In her memoirs, you can read some critical remarks about the rivals, but not a single bad word. Leman mentions Paolina Lucca, to whom the acquired title of count seemed to be the greatest creative achievement – she was so proud of it; she writes about the dramatic sopranos Mathilde Mallinger and Wilma von Voggenhuber, as well as the highly gifted contralto Marianne Brant.

In general, the acting fraternity lived together, although here it could not do without scandals. So, Mullinger and Lucca hated each other, and the parties of admirers kindled the flames of war. When, one day before a performance, Paolina Lucca overtook the imperial procession, wanting to demonstrate her superiority, Mullinger’s fans greeted Cherubino’s exit from the “Marriage of Figaro” with a deafening whistle. But the prima donna was not going to give up. “So should I sing or not?” she shouted into the hall. And this cold disregard for the etiquette of the court theater had its effect: the noise subsided so much that Lucca could sing. True, this did not prevent Countess Mullinger, who performed in this performance, from slapping the unloved Cherubino with an absurd, but really resounding slap in the face. Both prima donnas would surely have fainted if they had not seen Lilly Leman in the acting box, ready to replace at any moment – even then she became famous as a lifesaver. However, none of the rivals was going to provide her with another triumph.

Over the course of fifteen long years, Lilly Lehman gradually won the favor of the Berlin public and critics, and at the same time the CEO. Huelsen did not even imagine that she would be able to move from lyrical Konstanz, Blondchen, Rosin, Filin and Lortsing soubrettes to dramatic roles. Namely, a young, not experienced singer was drawn to them. As early as 1880, Leman complained that the director of the court opera looked at her as a minor actress and gave good roles only if other singers refused them. By this time, she had already experienced triumphs in Stockholm, London and on the main opera stages in Germany, as befits a real prima donna. But the most significant was the performance that would profoundly influence her career: Richard Wagner chose Lehman to premiere his Der Ring des Nibelungen at the 1876 Bayreuth Festival. She was entrusted with the role of the first Mermaid and Helmwig from Valkyrie. Of course, these are not the most dramatic parts, but neither for Wagner nor for her there were small insignificant roles. Perhaps, a sense of responsibility towards art at that time would have forced the singer to abandon the role of Brunnhilde. Almost every evening, Lilly and her sister, the second Mermaid, came to Villa Wanfried. Wagner, Madame Cosima, Liszt, later also Nietzsche – in such a prominent society “curiosity, surprise and disputes did not dry out, just as general excitement did not pass. Music and matter steadily brought us into a state of ecstasy … “

The magical charm of the stage genius Richard Wagner made no less impression on her than his personality. He treated her like an old acquaintance, walked arm in arm with her in the Wanfried garden, and shared his ideas. In the Bayreuth theater, according to Lilly Lehman, he planned to stage not only The Ring, but also such outstanding works as Fidelio and Don Giovanni.

During the production, incredible, completely new difficulties arose. I had to master the device for swimming mermaids – this is how Leman describes it: “Oh my God! It was a heavy triangular structure on metal piles about 20 feet high, at the ends of which a lattice scaffold was placed at an angle; we were supposed to sing to them!” For courage and mortal risk, after the performance, Wagner tightly hugged the Mermaid, who was shedding tears of joy. Hans Richter, the first conductor of Bayreuth, Albert Niemann, his “spirit and physical strength, his unforgettable appearance, the King and God of Bayreuth, whose beautiful and unique Sigmund will never return”, and Amalia Materna – these are the people whose communication, of course, after the creator of theatrical festivities in Bayreuth, belong to the strongest impressions of Leman. After the festival, Wagner wrote her an expressive note of gratitude, which began like this:

“O! Lilly! Lilly!

You were the most beautiful of all and, my dear child, you were absolutely right that this will not happen again! We were bewitched by the magic spell of a common cause, my Mermaid … “

It really didn’t happen again, the colossal shortage of money after the first “Ring of the Nibelungen” made a repetition impossible. Six years later, with a heavy heart, Leman refused to participate in the world premiere of Parsifal, although Wagner insistently begged; her ex-fiance Fritz Brand was responsible for the scenery for the performance. It seemed to Lilly that she could not bear the new meeting.

Meanwhile, she rose to fame as a dramatic singer. Her repertoire included Venus, Elizabeth, Elsa, a little later Isolde and Brunnhilde and, of course, Beethoven’s Leonora. There was still room for old bel canto parts and such promising acquisitions as Lucrezia Borgia and Lucia di Lammermoor from Donizetti’s operas. In 1885, Lilly Lehman made her first ocean crossing to America, and performed with great success at the luxurious, recently opened Metropolitan Opera, and during her tour of this vast country she managed to gain recognition from the American public, accustomed to Patti and others. the stars of the Italian school. The New York Opera wanted to get Leman forever, but she refused, bound by Berlin obligations. The singer had to complete her concert tour, thirty performances in America brought her as much money as she could earn in Berlin in three years. For many years now, Leman has consistently received 13500 marks a year and 90 marks for a concert – an amount not befitting her position. The singer begged to extend the vacation, but she was refused and thus achieved the termination of the contract. The boycott announced by Berlin for many years imposed a ban on her performances in Germany. Tours in Paris, Vienna and America, where Lilly performed 18 times, increased the fame of the singer so much that in the end the imperial “pardon” reopened her way to Berlin.

In 1896, the Ring of the Nibelungen was staged again in Bayreuth. In the face of Leman, who gained international fame, they saw the most worthy performer of Isolde. Cosima invited the singer, and she agreed. True, this peak of his career did not remain cloudless. The dictatorial habits of the mistress of Bayreuth did not please her. After all, it was she, Lilly Lehman, that Wagner initiated into his plans, it was she who eagerly absorbed his every remark and kept every gesture in her magnificent memory. Now she was forced to look at what was happening, which had nothing to do with her memories; Leman had great respect for Cosima’s energy and intelligence, but her arrogance, which brooked no objection, got on her nerves. The prima donna felt that “the keeper of the Holy Grail of 1876 and with her Wagner appear in a different light.” Once, at a rehearsal, Cosima called her son to witness: “Don’t you, Siegfried, do you remember that in 1876 it was exactly like that?” “I think you’re right, Mom,” he replied obediently. Twenty years ago he was only six years old! Lilly Lehman recalled old Bayreuth with longing, looking at the singers, “always standing in profile”, at the stage covered with noisy bumps-waves, at the love duet of Siegmund and Sieglinde, who sat with their backs to each other, at the pitiful voices of the daughters of the Rhine, but more only “hard wooden dolls” hurt the soul. “There are many roads leading to Rome, but only one to present-day Bayreuth — slavish submission!”

The production was a huge success, and the serious quarrel between Leman and Cosima was eventually resolved amicably. In the end, the main trump card was still Lilly Lehman. In 1876 she sang for free, but now she transferred her entire fee and 10000 marks additionally to the Bayreuth hospital of St. Augusta for a permanent bed for poor musicians, about which she telegraphed Cosima “with deep respect” and an unequivocal allusion. Once upon a time, the mistress of Bayreuth lamented about the size of the singer’s fee. What was the main reason for their mutual hostility? Directing. Here Lilly Lehman had her own head on her shoulders, in which there were too many thoughts to blindly obey. At that time, the singer’s attention to directing was a very unusual thing. Directing, even in the largest theaters, was not put in anything, the leading director was engaged in clean wiring. The stars were already doing whatever they wanted. At the Berlin Court Theatre, the opera that was in the repertoire was not repeated at all before the performance, and rehearsals of new performances were carried out without scenery. Nobody cared about the performers of small parts, except for Lilly Lehman, who “played the role of a zealous overseer” and, after rehearsal, personally dealt with all the negligent ones. At the Vienna Court Opera, where she was invited to the role of Donna Anna, she had to extract the most necessary moments of the production from the assistant director. But the singer received the classic answer: “When Mr. Reichmann finishes singing, he will go to the right, and Mr. von Beck will go to the left, because his dressing room is on the other side.” Lilly Lehman tried to put an end to such indifference, where her authority allowed it. To one well-known tenor, she contrived to put stones in a sham precious box, which he always took like a feather, and he almost dropped his burden, having received a lesson in “natural playing”! In the analysis of Fidelio, she not only gave precise instructions regarding poses, movements and props, but also explained the psychology of all the characters, main and secondary. The secret of operatic success for her was only in interaction, in a universal spiritual aspiration. At the same time, she was skeptical about the drill, she did not like the famous Viennese troupe of Mahler precisely because of the lack of an inspiring link – an influential selfless personality. The general and the individual, in her opinion, were not in conflict with each other. The singer herself could confirm that already in 1876 in Bayreuth, Richard Wagner stood up for the natural disclosure of the creative personality and never encroached on the freedom of the actor.

Today, a detailed analysis of “Fidelio” will probably seem unnecessary. Whether to hang a lantern over the head of the prisoner Fidelio, or whether the light will stream “from distant corridors” – is it really so important? Leman approached with the greatest seriousness what in modern language is called fidelity to the author’s intention, and hence her intolerance towards Cosima Wagner. Solemnity, majestic poses and the whole style of Leman’s performance today will seem too pathetic. Eduard Hanslik regretted the actress’s lack of “powerful natural forces” and at the same time admired her “exalted spirit, which, like polished steel, is indispensable in the manufacture of any thing and shows our eyes a pearl polished to perfection.” Leman owes no less to visual talent than to excellent singing technique.

Her remarks about opera performances, made in the era of Italian pomp and Wagnerian stage realism, still have not lost their topicality: turn to the improvement of singing and performing arts, then the results would be incomparably more valuable … All pretense is from the evil one!

As a basis, she offered entry into the image, spirituality, life inside the work. But Lehman was too old to assert the new style of the modest stage space. The famous roller towers in Mahler’s production of Don Juan in 1906, the stationary frame structures that began a new era of stage design, Leman, with all her sincere admiration for Roller and Mahler, perceived as a “disgusting shell.”

So, she could not stand the “modern music” of Puccini and Richard Strauss, although with great success she enriched her repertoire with the songs of Hugo Wolf, who never once wanted to accept it. But the great Verdi Leman loved for a long time. Shortly before her Bayreuth debut in 1876, she first performed Verdi’s Requiem, and a year later she sang in Cologne under the guidance of the maestro himself. Then, in the role of Violetta, the highly experienced Wagnerian heroine revealed the deep humanity of Verdi’s bel canto, she so shocked her that the singer would gladly “confess her love in front of the entire musical world, knowing that many will condemn me for this … Hide your face if you believe one Richard Wagner, but laugh and have fun with me if you can empathize … There is only pure music, and you can compose whatever you want.

The last word, as well as the first, however, remained with Mozart. The elderly Leman, who, however, still appeared as the imposing Donna Anna at the Vienna State Opera, the organizer and patron of the Mozart festivals in Salzburg, returned to her “homeland”. On the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great composer, she staged Don Juan at the small city theater. Dissatisfied with the useless German versions, Leman insisted on the original Italian. Not for the sake of extravagance, but on the contrary, striving for the familiar and beloved, not wanting to disfigure the opera dear to her heart with “new ideas,” she wrote, throwing a sidelong glance at the famous Mahler-Rollerian production in Vienna. Scenery? It was a secondary matter – everything that came to hand in Salzburg was used. But on the other hand, for three and a half months, under the guidance of Lilly Lehman, the most detailed, intense rehearsals went on. The illustrious Francisco di Andrade, cavalier of the white silk ribbon, whom Max Slevoht immortalized with a glass of champagne in his hands, played the title role, Lilly Lehman – Donna Anna. Mahler, who brought the brilliant Le Figaro from Vienna, was critical of Leman’s production. The singer, on the other hand, insisted on her version of Don Juan, although she knew all its weaknesses.

Four years later, in Salzburg, she crowned her life’s work with a production of The Magic Flute. Richard Mayr (Sarastro), Frieda Hempel (Queen of the Night), Johanna Gadsky (Pamina), Leo Slezak (Tamino) are outstanding personalities, representatives of the new era. Lilly Lehman herself sang First Lady, a role she once debuted with. The circle was closed by the glorious name of Mozart. The 62-year-old woman still had enough strength to resist the role of Donna Anna in front of such luminaries as Antonio Scotti and Geraldine Farrar already in the second title of the summer festival – Don Juan. The Mozart Festival ended with the solemn laying of the Mozarteum, which was primarily Leman’s merit.

After that, Lilly Lehman said goodbye to the stage. On May 17, 1929, she died, she was then already over eighty. Contemporaries admitted that an entire era had gone with her. Ironically, the spirit and work of the singer were revived in a new brilliance, but in the same name: the great Lotta Lehman was not related to Lilly Lehman, but turned out to be surprisingly close to her in spirit. In the created images, in the service of art and in life, so unlike the life of a prima donna.

K. Khonolka (translation — R. Solodovnyk, A. Katsura)

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