Born in Merseburg, Schumann trained for a singing career in Berlin and Dresden. She made her stage debut in Hamburg in 1909. Her initial career started in the lighter soubrette roles that expanded into mostly lyrical roles, some coloratura roles, and even a few dramatic roles. She remained at the Hamburg Opera until 1919, also singing during the 1914/15 season at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. From 1919 to 1938, she was a star of the Vienna State Opera. Her most famous role was that of Sophie in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier; but she also excelled in Mozart, taking the roles of Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Blonde in Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro.
The conductor Karl Alwin was her second husband from 1920 until 1938. In 1938 she emigrated to New York City where she lived until her death on 23 April 1952. During World War II she gave recitals but mainly taught singing, privately and at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. After the war she gave many recitals in Europe, making a particularly successful comeback in England.
She was a much-loved artist, admired for her vivacity, elegance, and beauty. She was closely connected with Richard Strauss, Otto Klemperer, Lotte Lehmann, Bruno Walter, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and other leading musicians of the first half of the 20th century.
- Honorary Member of the Vienna State Opera and the first female Honorary Member of the Vienna Philharmonic.
In a career spanning 28 years, Schumann sang 91 roles. Her debut role was the Shepherd Boy in Tannhäuser on 2 September 1909 in Hamburg; on 1 November 1937 her last role was the First Flower maiden in Parsifal in Vienna.
- Elisabeth Schumann: a Biography by (her son) Gerd Puritz, edited and translated by her granddaughter, Joy Puritz, published 1993 by André Deutsch, London, ISBN 0-233-98794-0 (out of print); revised paperback edition published 1996 by Grant and Cutler Ltd, London, ISBN 9780729303941
- Great Voices of the Century sing Exotica, SCSH 005
- "Elisabeth Schumann: Silver thread of song", EMI Classics, 2011, digitally-remastered 6-CD set, 5099991848024.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Elisabeth Schumann.|
- The Elisabeth Schumann Website, has extensive materials on Elisabeth Schumann, including a discography and an online exhibition of photographs, accessed 21 June 2010.
- In America with Richard Strauss: Elisabeth Schumann's 1921 diary, in English, German and facsimile, accessed 5 August 2010