Lotte Lehmann discusses her opera roles and how opera has changed
BROADCAST: Apr. 18, 1960 | DURATION: 00:37:02
Interviewing Madame Lotte Lehmann about her opera roles and how the genre of opera has changed.
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Studs Terkel The rebroadcast of a conversation of the late lieder singer, opera singer Lotte Lehmann, this took place back in 1960. Madame Lehmann in just a moment. [pause in recording] The last song Madame Lehmann sung as a performer is Schubert's "An die Musik." "Du holde Kunst," she sang "ich danke dir." This was the encore of her 1951 recital a farewell recital. "Thou Noble Art I Thank You" she sings. That was the song, "An die Musik" the last one. At the concert itself she didn't quite finish it but always she does really the artist herself, Madame Lehmann February 16th 1951. Probably those who've been there and those who've read of it and heard of it describe it as one of the finest moments in the history of the theater. Let's hear from the artist herself explaining why this is the end of her as a public performance on this night February 16th '51 at Town Hall. Tribute to an artist who has established her own standards for which she would not deviate not too much later after this concert she wrote a letter to Claudia Cassidy of the "Tribune" and just an excerpt from it: "My friends say that I am crazy. They say that I have sung the other day "The Winterreise" as never before I know better. I never liked to betray, and when I sing nowadays I have a horrible feeling of cheating my public taking advantage of their kindness and loyalty which did not allow them to hear with critical ears what I am doing." Another excerpt, she continues in this vein, she says "I cannot be satisfied with success. Success cannot fool me. I know better and therefore I say good bye," and toward the end she says "Believe me it is the right thing to do. It seems to me that I would be dreadfully conceited to think that I could go on and on even if my voice deteriorates. That is what all the people say, you could sing on and on it is not the voice, it is your interpretation," but writes Madame Lehmann, "the voice is the instrument on which I play and this instrument sounds muted to me, dulled without radiance. No, oh no, what I do is write. I am affectionately your Lotte." And you recall during a farewell speech he made reference to her role, the role for which she has been so noted and justifiably the Marschallin in the "Rosenkavalier" and she referred to the mirror scene. And so we hear the mirror scene after the Baron has left her, the lecherous Baron, she is alone, the Marschallin she says, "There he goes, the bloated worthless fellow and gets the pretty young thing and a tidy fortune too. As if it had to be and flatters himself that it is he who makes the sacrifice. But why do I upset myself? It's just the way of the world." And then she says, "I well remember a girl who came fresh from the convent to be forced into holy matrimony" and she takes up her hand mirror and she stares into it [German]. "Where is she now? Yes, seek the snows of yesteryear, that is easily said, but how can it really be that I was once the little Resi and that I will one day become the old woman, the old woman, the field marshal's wife. Look you, there she goes, the old princess Resi. How can it happen? How does the dear Lord do it while I always remain the same? And if he has to do it like this, why does he let me watch it happen with such clear census? Why doesn't he hide it from me? It is all a mystery, so deep a mystery. And one is here to endure it and in the how there lies the whole difference." Madame Lehmann is the Marschallin. The mirror scene from the Rosenkavalier, now Madame Lotte Lehmann, and her career of course is far from ended she merely began a new one as a teacher so that the tradition, more than just a vocal tradition, but an artistic tradition in itself can continue, that of setting own standards and being true to them. And so the interview with Madame Lotte Lehmann. An artist was on the stage it was her role the Marschallin in Strauss's "The Rosenkavalier" and the dean of London music critics, Ernest Newman, wrote of her performance, "An exquisite singer with a voice capable of the most delicate inflections and an actress whose quiet ease is the perfection of the art that conceals art." The art that conceals art perhaps is the best way of describing the work. The remarkable talents of Madame Lotte Lehmann, who is our guest, Madame Lehmann who so many consider the finest lieder singer of our century, certainly interpreter of songs and I'm certain of the arias and operas, is teaching, Madame Lehmann at Northwestern University?
Lotte Lehmann Yes, courses and demonstration courses in [ex--?] of, shall I say, for lieder singing and arias. But I would like very much to go back, what you just quoted is the remark of Mr. Newman that I what did he say? Quiet?
Studs Terkel Ease.
Lotte Lehmann Quiet ease is slightly exaggerated because I remember this performance very vividly. I was for the first time in London I got this offer for London some weeks before and it was the contract for it dependent on the fact that I had to sing the Marschallin. But I sang at that time Octavian and hadn't learned the Marschallin at all, but when I looked at the contract, London Covent Garden, the conductor Bruno Walter I signed very boldly. I have never regretted it, but I came to London with great misgivings because the Marschallin is one of those parts that one has to- to grow into. One cannot conquer this kind of role very quickly. I knew it musically but that was really all and Bruno Walter helped me tremendously. He was really one of my greatest teachers, I must say, and that I fitted slightly in this excellent performance was Elisabeth Schumann and Delia Reinhardt and Richard Mayr was quite an achievement, but I almost died from stage fright you can imagine that.
Studs Terkel You remember this so vividly.
Lotte Lehmann Oh very much so. I have sung in, I don't know if you know that I have sung in "Rosenkavalier" all three roles, first as a young beginner Sophie, and 1914 I came for the first time to London and sang Sophie under Sir Thomas Beecham in Drury Lane. I took the place of Claire Dux who had to cancel the performance but nobody really in London remembers that [inclusive inclusive?] was Thomas Beecham because I remember that he once heard me later on as the Marschallin and that he said to somebody, "It's to me quite amazing if that's the same person who sang Sophie and almost died on the stage from fright".
Studs Terkel Then there's the third- the third role Octavian.
Lotte Lehmann Octavian, yeah. First there was Sophie later Octavian and then the Marschallin.
Studs Terkel Which brings to a very interesting point, well, several questions come up as you're speaking now. Remembering one earlier said you had misgivings, you knew it musically.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel But what was it you were not sure of, the interpretation?
Lotte Lehmann Oh, the character I mean the subtleties which- which are demanded for in a role like that. I think that the greatest singer on Earth, if she is not an actress can never be a good Marschallin. The Marschallin has to be really a singing actress to do justice to this part. I have always loved it very much, it's one of my favorite parts.
Studs Terkel This phrase, well your favorite part of it, is I mean no one thinks of the Marschallin and without thinking of Lotte Lehmann. I mean this is if we may say, this is your role.
Lotte Lehmann Oh nobody is irreplaceable in life and really as much as I am happy naturally if one obviously remembers me as Marschallin I think one does unjustice to- to those who come later when one starts to compare. I think it greater personality is the next one should compare. If somebody acts for instance plays the Marschallin entirely different from my conceptions that maybe also quite wonderful and--
Studs Terkel It is remarkable that you say this. Here you used the phrase earlier the singing actress an act- that is, a singer must be an actress and here you speak of someone whose interpretation is so wholly different.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel The matter of drama as well as music.
Lotte Lehmann Yes, you know that is the secret of really of interpretation. You know if everybody would sing the same way and let's say, in a concert program some singer would sing it very beautifully and now everybody takes this one singer as a--
Studs Terkel Model.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah, model and does it in the same way. Wouldn't that be boring? I mean then one has heard it once, and one says I don't go and ever in my life again to a concert, I've heard everything. No, it should be different, it should be, it should fit to the personality and that is what I always strive to do in my teaching and not that I want them to imitate me, imitation is always a sign of an artistic weakness. I only want to arouse the imagination and to develop their personalities. Naturally in [some? seven?] weeks here at Northwestern, how can I do it? I mean I can only give a glimpse I can only open the door, but if somebody studies for a long time for me in wintertime, for instance, when I have in Santa Barbara it's a Music Academy of the West, a very small and selected class where I can go very much into details. There it is possible that I achieve what I want to achieve, to develop the personalities.
Studs Terkel Something you just said about opening avenues. I met a student, one of the people attending one of your classes.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel I think it was last year, the year before at Northwestern.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel And what she said well, she spoke very emotionally of course, very moved. She says her eyes were opened, aside from her ears and the inspiration this vitality that you give this repeating in her way what you've said about being her own self.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah. I've heard that often of students, that they say, when I say, now this is only a very short time that I can be here, I can only give you very little. That they answer me, but you have opened a new conception for us and that is something you know [coughs] excuse me, something which may blossom out really later on. That later when these young people develop into real artists that this comes back what they have felt what I told them, and then they can develop it into their own personalities.
Studs Terkel This matter you spoke of develop into your own personalities, what you try to teach your students, what you have done so eloquently on the opera and the concert stage, something you said you may not even recall your saying, you're speaking of lieder singing and this is a quote of yours I found. "I like to feel that my singing is not a finite thing in itself. But rather the means of communicating my personal convictions."
Lotte Lehmann Yes. Yes, that's quite nicely expressed. I had forgotten that entirely.
Studs Terkel That you said it.
Lotte Lehmann But it's quite well expressed. What else do you want to know?
Studs Terkel As much as you want to tell me. The role of the Marschallin, I'm thinking about this there were three different roles. There was the young ingenue, the girl.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel There was the handsome young boy, and finally the most interesting of all this woman.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel Of attractiveness but who feels, how did you feel at that?
Lotte Lehmann She's on the threshold at that age where the resignation waits around the corner. And has a last fling with her young Octavian, I don't think that she really has taken this affair very seriously. She is enchanted by him and but, she is much too wise not to know that this will have a very very sudden ending. The ending is there earlier than she likes it perhaps, but she is great enough to- to say goodbye with a smile.
Studs Terkel She's really a wise and wonderful heroine. Really she is.
Lotte Lehmann Oh absolutely. I think she's an wonderful woman.
Lotte Lehmann And I personally have learned very much from this opera role. It may sound strange but it's really true. When I stopped singing concerts, for instance, it would have made me terribly unhappy perhaps, but I have learned that it's one has to and one has to obey the or--, the command of time and one has to obey without flinching and without, without in [repulsing?] this idea, and therefore I really [could?] saying goodbye with a smile.
Studs Terkel And so gracefully I think was Irving Kolodin who wrote a great deal of your own feelings on this subject, and this to me this is so important Madame Lehmann, today when people, there's a play in town--
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel Dealing with the flight of youth. People are so afraid.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel Afraid of losing the calendar youth.
Lotte Lehmann Yes. Yes. And then you know when I was a young singer I had already decided when the time comes that I think I should stop I will, and I really I have always tried to be very objective with myself. In the time when, it was 1951, when I ceased to sing concerts, all my friends were horrified. Everybody said to me, "but that's ridiculous you could certainly sing some more years," it would have been perhaps possible but I didn't want to. I couldn't do any more what I was accustomed to do. I was always an artist who gave everything gave out of the fullness of my of my emotion. And I couldn't do that any more because when I made up a program I had to be careful, I had to leave out songs, for instance, which were too strenuous for me, too dramatic, which were not anymore in my reach and that I couldn't stand. And through the last year of my of my concert career, I suffered terribly and I was not fooled by the applause and by the loyalty of my audience. Very often when I came home after a concert which had been tremendously successful, I was weeping the whole night because I had the feeling, I really have betrayed my audience because I didn't give any more what I was able to give some years ago.
Studs Terkel The artist setting her own standard.
Lotte Lehmann Yes. Which is much more important than the standard which others set for the artist.
Studs Terkel You're listening to a conversation with Lotte Lehmann, opera singer, lieder singer, teacher. We'll resume after this message. [pause in recording] Here that can't be emphasized too much coming from you Madame Lehmann, this point of the artist must satisfy himself.
Lotte Lehmann Yes.
Studs Terkel You are not, you are not compromised by the applause.
Lotte Lehmann I went so far, I remember you know Paul Ulanowsky was my accompanist for a long time, I went so far often that, when he, when I said came to the artist room in an intermission I said, "Oh, I think this was terrible." He said "Lotte, don't be so foolish, didn't you hear how people liked it?" I said, "Now, perhaps they like me so that they applaud because they pity me". So I was convinced that I- I wasn't good anymore and- and you know something very strange happened. After I had sung my last concert, very soon after that my voice disappeared entirely. Now this may be something entirely mentally because it's too strange, I listen now to my last farewell concert recording. It's not too bad, I mean it's not so that the voice had disappeared there was very much which I didn't like, but it is not bad. But I couldn't sing anymore the voice absolutely left me for ever. I am unable to sing.
Studs Terkel After you decided to retire.
Lotte Lehmann After I had decided. It is though my voice said "That was very good my dear, now I go away".
Studs Terkel It's as though your voice followed your heart.
Studs Terkel We come back to this theme of yours and what you've just said seems to buttress this so well. The means of communicating my personal convictions, and if they cannot communicate this up to the standards you have set that are so high, you will not.
Lotte Lehmann Yes, therefore every artificiality is something which I dislike very much. There are young singers who who do what I say from the outside you know, and in a short time one cannot alter that I can only try to, but they have to believe it. They have to feel it really, only then it will be will go over to the public and the audience is really very very sensitive. I think they feel that very soon they may be fooled by somebody for a time but I think for long in a longer run only the real sincere artists will hold their love.
Studs Terkel Something you said here from the inside.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel Meaning it is easy to trick it is easy to have tricks on the outside.
Lotte Lehmann That's it, that's it. But I think that the audience very soon feels this is a trick and very soon feels what is what is thought out and what is felt.
Studs Terkel You feel the audience itself, this matter of communication you're talking about they are communicating to them.
Lotte Lehmann Oh definitely definitely. I think it is obvious in take and give. I have, you know there are two kinds of singers, those who stand there like on a pedestal and sing above the heads of the audience or those who feel one with the audience. I always felt one with my audience had always had the feeling I would like to go down and take their hands and enjoy what I do now together with them and I think that that really has been the secret of my success as a concert singer, because I have very often heard that people from the audience said to me something very strange, "You know Madame Lehmann when you sing I have the feeling you sing for me personally," and in a certain sense I did it because for me the audience was one person to whom I could speak and I knew this person understands me and this person enjoys me in this moment as I enjoy my singing.
Studs Terkel The intimacy of the art here.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel You mentioned concert singing see for the moment, if we may in contrast say to an aria, a role in opera, with a lied, I suppose this is all the more so, it's so personal, isn't it?
Lotte Lehmann Oh yes, a lied, in an opera one can really not not have this. There are two different roles [because?] the role where the drama plays, the opera, the acting where one becomes another person, but in a concert that's different in a concert there should not be this--
Studs Terkel [Wall?]
Lotte Lehmann These foot lights which separates the singer from the public.
Studs Terkel Here when you sing a Schubert lied or something from "The Winterreise" or Brahms or a Wolf it's to a one person, it's a personal--
Lotte Lehmann Yes, a personal experience that should be like it. That should be like it.
Studs Terkel This matter of the singing actress, the art of acting and singing that you have fused so beautifully. You are one of the first aren't you? When you were very young weren't the singers then florid? Acting, was acting a major role?
Lotte Lehmann No, acting was not so important but it started really in my time it started, I have sung a lot operas of Richard Strauss and he was always there and he was very very, he wanted very much the part itself, he didn't care for details, he wanted the whole parts and really lived his parts.
Studs Terkel Meaning.
Lotte Lehmann The meaning, so it, was it, really a living drama.
Studs Terkel Someone spoke of your debut as as Elsa in "Lohengrin" and perhaps you may disagree what was said. They said it was a wholly new Elsa.
Lotte Lehmann Oh, no no, that's not right, that's not right [insofar?] I was very young then. I sang Elsa for the first time in Hamburg. I took, the singer who was supposed to sing it was ill and another one was not there and so Klemperer dared to to take me he said to me, "Tell me have you really the courage to do that? Do you know the part?" I said yes, I didn't know it, I learned day and night but I don't think I was Elsa at all. I mean I sing it very nicely and was helped by Klemperer and by my colleagues but I don't think that I had any conception at that time.
Studs Terkel A lot of people disagree with you, don't you feel that you were a good Wagner heroine?
Lotte Lehmann Oh later on, oh naturally later on.
Lotte Lehmann Yes certainly.
Studs Terkel Elsa, the debut, yes.
Lotte Lehmann I talked to you say about the debut you know later on, certainly.
Studs Terkel One of Wagner I think of your Elisabeth and "Tannhäuser" and then in the "Walküre."
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel And Elsa here, here too I suppose with Wagner with the increasing popularity of Wagner in your younger days the matter of the drama again the drama here was coming to the fore again, wasn't it?
Lotte Lehmann Yes but you see in America one has really one has heard me mostly in Wagner and one has sometimes said "the Wagnerian soprano," which I always disliked very much because I had really a tremendous repertory and I sang all the Italian and French roles. No, from me, when I developed as I have developed slowly I must say, my way was not a quick one in Hamburg. I sang for quite a while, small roles and I think that is good. Nowadays the girls are so turn into stars so overnight I don't think that is very good.
Studs Terkel You're raising a very serious question. I wish you'd expand on this some more Madame Lehmann today, this matter of the training the time today with television and fast travel. The- would you mind telling--
Studs Terkel What about the training and the speed today with which--
Lotte Lehmann Oh, I think the training is very good in America, I think there are excellent teachers. For instance where ever I comes, technically these voices are very well trained generally but it is the lack of opportunity in America which is so terrible. You know at my time I was born in Germany I came 1916 to Vienna and then I became a Viennese. But if one didn't get one engagement, there would be a hundred others, every small town had opera houses and here it is so a metropolitan and in Chicago and the- the season is too short. They cannot [unintelligible] and there are now developing troupes that go over as a country which is very wonderful. But they go generally with this very small repertory. So that a singer learns one or two roles and goes now for weeks and weeks with the same roles over a country, that is not really a development, we had an ever-changing repertory, ever-changing. I would like very much to tell you about a student of mine who whom I discovered here at Northwestern University.
Lotte Lehmann Three years ago and a colored girl Grace Bumbry is her name and she followed me to Santa Barbara, where I teach, it's a Music Academy of the West, and she had developed so tremendously she has a beautiful mezzo soprano voice and she had just some days ago her debut in Paris at the Grand Opera as Amneris, [of course?] an absolute sensation. And I'm so excited about that. I've never in my life been so excited about myself than I was about her.
Studs Terkel What's her name? Grace
Lotte Lehmann That's a name you should keep in mind.
Lotte Lehmann She will be once a very great singer.
Studs Terkel Tell us about your teaching now. Now here is a protege of yours a student of yours and you feel so excited about this, you are in a way challenging the trend of our day, the trend of speed. Here is a protege of yours.
Lotte Lehmann Yes, but you know she was a long time under my care and I and I have developed her art very carefully and I know that she is ready. Naturally she has to learn a lot yet who hasn't? I have learned through the end of my singing career, I learn when I teach, I mean one never never ceases to learn, but I am very very sure of her. I took her to Europe in summer and made the contacts for her and I really think that she will fulfill all my dreams about her. She comes now in May she- she is at the moment in St. Louis with her parents and she comes in May to Santa Barbara to study "Carmen" with me. She is engaged in Basel, Switzerland for two years and will sing Carmen and [Dalila?] and Amneris.
Studs Terkel And Amneris. You raise a point here of earlier, think- coming back and it involves Grace Bambry [sic] and your younger days. The repertoire, now and then I hear interviewing a modern singers, Oh we have a broad repertoire today, more than singers of the early days. Is this so?
Lotte Lehmann Oh, no that is absolutely not true.
Studs Terkel Please.
Lotte Lehmann How is that possible that they say that? Maybe in concerts in so far that they sing very cheap music on television and on radio I don't call that a broad repertory. How can they say that? Because even at the Metropolitan they cannot have every day another opera as we had it in Vienna. Oh no.
Studs Terkel You spoke of opera houses well, this answers that definitely, you spoke of opera houses in almost every small city in Europe [unintelligible].
Lotte Lehmann Yes, you know they have theaters there where half the week they gave for drama and half the week they gave opera. But a young singer coming there had all the opportunity to sing their repertory.
Studs Terkel Well to what would you ascribe this matter, Madame Lehmann, the fact that here or at least in our time now there is a dearth of opera and opportunities, what- why?
Lotte Lehmann It's too much competition [unintelligible] with television, with movies and the ease with which one flies now from one place to another when one wants to hear a-- look I flew with a jet plane from Los Angeles to Chicago in three and a half hours. Isn't that absolutely funny? It's really funny almost. So if the singers live an entirely different life now. It is, I'm sorry to say it seems to me rather commercialized. And when I came to Europe I spent four months in Europe last summer and I went to several theaters where former students have now positions and I talked with them, and I talked with my old colleagues and all the old colleagues said to me it is not the same as in our time it is not anymore this fanatic desire to do the right thing. It is very much business everywhere. One is paid much more highly than we ever were, there is not a feeling of an ensemble anymore. Really the Metropolitan is one of the few places where has an ensemble yet.
Studs Terkel You mean it's the star making the name in the headline?
Lotte Lehmann Yeah, but who has really has a steady company at least. But if you go to Vienna now I mean there are companies from Italy.
Studs Terkel By ensemble, you mean a repertory company?
Lotte Lehmann Repertory company--
Studs Terkel A repertory company.
Lotte Lehmann That's I mean with ensemble. That the art of ensemble singing which we were taught, where one was not a star, where one was part of the others, that has gone gone to pieces. Now the star is more important and if you go to modern productions now the singers are almost a part of the stage setting and also of the orchestra is all is is- they don't stand out any more they- they they don't do their job anymore as we have been taught to do it. They very seldom really- I talk mostly about Wagner now- they very seldom really act their roles it's always everything is stylized. Now I am too perhaps too old fashioned.
Studs Terkel Oh, please, please say more.
Lotte Lehmann That I- I cannot quite understand this anymore. I think that opera is a living drama and the more natural you are in it one can bring- for instance look at "Walküre." "Walküre," the second act and the third act which is on the top of the mountain where the gods dwell, that can be stylized, but the first act is reality. These are human beings who are there and what do they do? They are there is no tree anymore there is no no no no table anymore. They just stand around and sing. Oh I think that is rewarding to me.
Studs Terkel Madame Lehmann you are needed as a director of some of these operas.
Lotte Lehmann Oh I think I would be considered as too old fashioned.
Lotte Lehmann I really believe that. I really believe that. And when when I study these scenes with my students sometimes I think by myself and now I teach them all that which I consider is the right thing and perhaps they come to an opera and then a very modern [French?] says, no you just stay there and stand there and sing. That makes me very confused.
Studs Terkel Again you are challenging you and your way, so needed today are challenging what some people described as the technology of our time, the machine age.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah that's it that's it's that I- I don't like. Also there is a tremendous emphasis on technique and also singing techniques that a singer who is perfect in technique is a great great star, and I don't think--
Studs Terkel But no feeling inside.
Lotte Lehmann No, that's it. That's it. I think we have enough now don't you think so?
Studs Terkel Oh this is marvelous. Let's hear- how do you feel? You tired now?
Lotte Lehmann Oh, I think you have enough now.
Studs Terkel Oh, you're marvelous. One perhaps one last bit of advice.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel Madame Lehmann to the young students to the those who want to sing who are looking for opportunities or you have offered a great deal of advice in this conversation we have had.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Lotte Lehmann Opportunities, you know that is a question that makes me very embarrassed. There often come students to me who are now ready to leave the nest and to be free and get an engagement. But where they get it? The [bestest?] get to go to Europe, but who can afford it? And if they go to Europe, also there slowly the doors are closing because they don't like the influx of--
Studs Terkel Foreigners.
Lotte Lehmann Foreigners, which one can understand.
Studs Terkel Oh, what is- do you have a suggestion? Do you have something? Suppose you had unlimited funds, suppose you had all sorts of power what would be your suggestion to for opportunities for young singers for a revival of interest in the opera or a new kind of interest.
Lotte Lehmann If I would have unlimited funds which is a very charming idea, I would I would build opera houses in America. That's what is necessary here and I am so amazed that the big foundations which have so much money and give so much to universities and and and hospitals that they have not enough to build opera houses and I am sure that if opera houses would be built and have the right publicity and the right introduction that people would get much more opera conscious and would come.
Studs Terkel One last question this is the last one.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel America, we have not, our country, your country in Germany, Vienna, Mitteleuropa, has been conditioned, Italy--
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel The people have. We have not been. What's your feeling about- We don't know- Mozart has been pretty well translated in some cases.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel What's your feeling about the--
Lotte Lehmann Translation.
Studs Terkel Translation.
Lotte Lehmann Now when I came here I was very European and I hated this idea but I have changed my mind entirely. I think if opera should be made popular it can only be made popular if one understands what they are singing about and one has to find good translations naturally, I have given two years ago in Santa Barbara "Der Rosenkavalier" in English and the translation of John Gutman which was very good. And this coming summer, I will do ["Arabella"? unintelligible] also with a Gutman translation but it has to be necessary that's a good translator.
Lotte Lehmann I mean the old Italian operas they have some time some translations which are--
Lotte Lehmann So ridiculous that one cannot stand it, but if you find good translations- you see in Vienna we sang everything in German. I sang Tosca and Mimi and everything in German and we didn't think a thing of it but here everybody, I think has a kind of--
Studs Terkel Inferiority.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah, no, wanting to be terribly highbrow.
Studs Terkel Ahh!
Studs Terkel Here again Madame Lehmann brings opera down to Earth, where it belongs. Lofty for the artist and the experience lofty for the audience, but certainly an understanding communication.
Lotte Lehmann I would like to say one thing to a young singer. Sometimes young singer comes to me and says, Madame Lehmann I feel I really feel that I don't give enough, and don't you think I should give up? And I always say, Yeah if you ask this question then it's better you give up. But if you know- if I give you now the advice give up, don't pay any attention to me. Go ahead. As long as you feel you have to go ahead it will be all right and I tell you that from my own experience, I as a young student was thrown out of the singing school of Etelka Gerster in Berlin, who was the greatest singing teacher and I have up 'til now a letter from her in which she says, You will never make a penny with your singing. You have no voice and no talent. Now this woman certainly didn't hate me, it was her honest opinion. So it is terribly difficult to say to a young singer, Give up. And if somebody sings terribly then I say my opinion is that I don't think you can make a career, but and then I tell her always this story and I say, Now make up your own mind.
Studs Terkel The challenge is there.
Lotte Lehmann Yeah.
Studs Terkel It is for the artist or the budding artist to accept or reject. Madame Lehmann. Thank you very much for being so gracious and being allowing me to be your guest and I must say that your students are very fortunate indeed.
Lotte Lehmann Thank you very much, you're very kind.