The Plaintive Last Song of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Appreciation By Tim Page
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 4, 2006; Page C01

The years were not kind to soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, who died yesterday at the age of 90. When she retired in the mid-1970s, she was an all-but-universally-adored diva — a beautiful and enormously popular opera star, a revered interpreter of German art song, a central figure in some of the most celebrated recordings of the mid-20th century.

The revelation, in 1983, of her long-ago membership in the Nazi Party — which she entered Jan. 26, 1940, while an aspiring young singer in Berlin — came as a shock to many of her admirers. (“Everybody at the opera joined,” she told the New York Times. “We thought nothing of it. We just did it.”) And her harshly imperious manner in the master classes she gave after retirement infuriated many of her gentler colleagues. She terrified the young Renee Fleming, among others.

The Plaintive Last Song of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

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