From Flower Maiden to Marschallin
Amadeus Press, 2009
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. From Flower Maiden to Marschallin is a lush photographic biography of the great German soprano collecting hundred of photographs that portray her in her signature roles and in private moments of her life. What is particularly notable is that the pictures have been chosen by Schwarzkopf herself shortly before her death in 2006. The bulk of the collection comes from the portraits taken by photographer Lillian Fayer, who is interviewed in the first part of the book and who is remembered for her professional pictures of opera singers. Fayer had a particular predilection for Schwarzkopf, of whom she praised her beauty and photogenic figure.
From Flower Maiden to Marschallin can be divided into three parts: in the first, there are the interview to Fayer and a short, biographical sketch of Schwarzkopf written by Liese; the second (and the longest) is composed by the pictures; and finally an interview to Schwarzkopf by Charles Scribner and her selected discography complete the volume. Of the three parts, the best is of course that of the photographs. The high grade printing paper and the dimensions of the pictures (many of which are full page) allows to admire Schwarzkopf’s beauty and costumes. The selection itself is also very good, because it offers not only an overview of Schwarzkopf’s major roles, but it presents also the great soprano during her private life as a child and as a wife.
For what concerns the text, the first part is the best. Both Fayer’s interview and Liese’s essay are coherent and carefully organized, while the second, which includes Schwarzkopf’s interview, would still need some improvement. In fact, if on the one hand Scribner’s writing preserves the spontaneity of the narration with its pauses and reflections between the dialogues, on the other some passages are muddled in the written form. However, Schwarzkopf’s thoughts have the prominence they deserve, emphasized by the use of direct speech, while the description of Scribner’s trip nicely contextualizes the dialogue.
The flaws of the texts (which are not so significant, however) do not diminish the value and the beauty of the photographs of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, which after all are the main reason for the publication of From Flower Maiden to Marschallin. Thanks to their accuracy, they make possible to follow the singer’s career and to discover every significant role she sang – among them, her signature roles of the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni (for a recording of Schwarzkopf’s Donna Elvira, I recommend the amazing Don Giovanni conducted by Carlo Maria Giulini, which we reviewed here). Moreover, this book allows you to have a clear and precise idea of the charm of this great singer. Definitely, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. From Flower Maiden to Marschallin is a book that the admirers of the great German soprano will enjoy.