Schumann-Heink, Ernestine


1901 autograph of the great Wagnerian contralto at the Metropolitan Opera 1898-1931



Autograph ID: 5963
Condition: Very good, slight vertical center fold
Description: “(1861-1936) Celebrated German Bohemian-American contralto noted for the size, beauty, tonal richness, flexibility and wide range of her voice. Born Ernestine “Tini” Rössler, her family moved to Graz, Austria when she was 13, where she took voice lessons. In 1877, she made her professional debut in Graz performing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and her operatic debut at Dresden’s Royal Opera House in 1878. In 1882, she wed Ernest Heink, secretary of the Saxon State Opera Dresden; they divorced in 1893 and she married actor Paul Schumann (d. 1904). Her breakthrough into lead roles came when prima donna Marie Goetze argued with the director of the Hamburg Opera. He asked Ernestine to sing the title role of Carmen without rehearsal, which she did to great acclaim. Goetze, in a fit of pique, cancelled out as Fidès in “Le Prophete” to be performed the following night, and was again replaced by Ernestine. Schumann-Heink replaced her in “Lohengrin” the next evening, again without rehearsal, and was offered a 10-year contract. She performed with Mahler at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and became well known for her performances of Wagner’s works at Bayreuth, singing at the Bayreuth Festivals 1896-1914. Her Metropolitan Opera debut was in 1898 and for decades thereafter she performed regularly at The Met. In 1905 she married her manager William Rapp, Jr.; they divorced in 1915. She became a US citizen in 1908. In 1909, she created the role of Klytaemnestra in the debut of Strauss’ “Elektra”, not satisfactory to either her or Strauss. In 1915, she appeared as herself in the documentary film “Mabel and Fatty Viewing the World’s Fair at San Francisco” directed by co-star Fatty Arbuckle. During WW I, she supported the US armed forces, entertaining troops and raising money to help wounded veterans. She toured the US raising money for the war effort. After the war she continued to support US veterans and her 1936 funeral was held with full military honors conducted by American Legion Post 43 of Hollywood and the Disabled Veterans of the World War, San Diego Chapter. In 1926, she first sang “Silent Night” in German & English on the radio for Christmas, which became a holiday tradition with US radio listeners thru Christmas 1935. Losing most of her money in the 1929 stock market crash, she was financially forced to continue to sing in her later years. Her last performance at the Met was in 1931 performing Erda in “Der Ring des Nibelungen” at 71. In her later years, she had a weekly radio program.
Frameable igned 4 1/2 x 7 sheet, New York, March 16 1901.”
Type: Signature

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