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In 1933, shortly after the Nazis came to power, ElisabethSCHWARZKOPF'S father, a local school headmaster, was dismissed from his position by the new ruling authorities for having refused to allow aNAZI party meeting at his school. He was alsoBANNED from taking any new teaching post. Until Friedrich Schwarzkopf's dismissal, the probability was that the 17-year-old Elisabeth would have studied medicine after passing her Abitur; but now, as the daughter of a banned schoolteacher, she was not allowed to enter university and she commenced music studies at theBerlin Hochschule für Musik. Schwarzkopf made her professional debut at the Deutsche Oper Berlin (then called Deutsches Opernhaus) on 15 April 1938, as the Second Flower Maiden (First Group) in act 2 of Richard Wagner's Parsifal. In 1940 Schwarzkopf was awarded a full contract with the Deutsches Opernhaus, a condition of which was that she had to join the Nazi party.
Since the theme was brought up in the dissertation of the Austrian historian Oliver Rathkolb in 1982, the discussion of Schwarzkopf's relationship with the Nazi Party has been discussed repeatedly in the media and in literature. There was criticism that Schwarzkopf, not only in the years immediately after the war but also in confrontation withREVELATIONS made in the 1980s and 1990s made contradictory statements, including in regard to her membership in the NSDAP (Member No. 7,548,960). At first, she denied this and then with varying explanations defended it.In one version, for example, she claimed that she joined the party only at the insistence of her father who, himself, had earlier lost his position as school principal after forbidding a Nazi program in the school.
Further publications discussed herMUSICAL performances during the war before Nazi party conferences and for units of the Waffen-SS. Her defenders argue in favor of her claim that she always strictly separatedART from politics and that she was a non-political person.
In March 1946, Schwarzkopf was invited to audition for Walter Legge, an influential British classical record producer and a founder of the Philharmonia Orchestra. Legge asked her to sing Hugo Wolf's liedWer rief dich denn? and, impressed, signed her to an exclusive contract with EMI. They began a close partnership and Legge subsequently became Schwarzkopf's manager and companion. They were married on 19 October 1953 in Epsom, Surrey; Schwarzkopf thus acquired British citizenship by marriage. Schwarzkopf would divide her time between lieder recitals and opera performances for the rest of herCAREER. When invited in 1958 to select her eight favourite records on the BBC'sDesert Island Discs, Schwarzkopf chose seven of her own recordings, and an eighth of Karajan conducting theRosenkavalier prelude, as they evokedFOND memories of the people she had worked with.
In the 1960s,SCHWARZKOPF concentrated nearly exclusively on five operatic roles: Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Fiordiligi in CosìFAN tutte, Countess Madeleine in Strauss's Capriccio, and the Marschallin. She also was well received as Alice Ford in Verdi's Falstaff. However, on the EMI label she made several "champagne operetta" recordings like Franz Lehár's The Merry Widow and Johann Strauss II's The Gypsy Baron.
Schwarzkopf's last operatic performance was as the Marschallin on 31 December 1971, in the theatre of La Monnaie in Brussels. For the next several years, she devoted herself exclusively to lieder recitals. On 17 March 1979, Walter Legge suffered a severe heart attack. He disregarded doctor's orders to rest and attended Schwarzkopf's final recital two days later in Zurich.THREE days later, he died.
Schwarzkopf died in her sleep during the night of 2–3 August 2006 at her home in Schruns, Vorarlberg, Austria, aged 90. Immediately following her death, an urban myth resurfaced: that she was an aunt of American general Norman Schwarzkopf. This myth was published in several obituaries. However, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf was an only child, and thus had no nieces or nephews.
She leaves a discography that is considerable both in quality and in quantity and will be mostly remembered for her Mozart and Richard Strauss operatic portrayals, her two commercial recordings of Strauss's Four Last Songs, and her countless recordings of lieder, especially those of Wolf.
The Elisabeth Schwarzkopf/Walter Legge Society, chaired by Dr Daphne Kerslake, continues to keep her name alive.
This section is a candidate to be copied to Wikiquote using the Transwiki process.*(After being asked about Peter Sellars) "There are names I do not want mentioned in my home. Do not say that name in my presence. I have seen what he has done, and it is criminal. As my husband used to say, so far no one has dared go into the Louvre Museum to spray graffiti on the Mona Lisa, but some opera directors are spraying graffiti over masterpieces." – Newsweek interview, 15 October 1990
She can be seen in two videotaped performances as the Marschallin:
Schwarzkopf Seefried Fischer-Dieskau, a black-and-white DVD of theseTHREE singers.SCHWARZKOPFperforms the Act I Finale from Der Rosenkavalier, from a performanceFILMED in London, 1961. Published by EMI Classics, Catalog number DVB 4904429.