Brief Biography

1895

Sept. 5. Meta Seinemeyer was born in Berlin, the daughter of Wilhelm Seinemeyer and Anna Seinemeyer (née Wassermann). Her father was a police officer with the rank of Kriminalkommissar (Detective Inspector). She had a brother, Willi Seinemeyer, who was probably younger than she was, although I don't know this for certain.

[1909-1911?]

[Dates very approximate.] She attended the Mädchen-Lyzeum (a high school for girls) and the Haushaltungsschule (a school of home economics) in Berlin. According to one source, her voice was discovered very early, but the source does not say exactly when, or by whom.

[1911-1917?]

[Dates very approximate.] Seinemeyer's musical education took place at the Stern'sches Konservatorium and, possibly, the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin; her voice teachers were Nikolaus Rothmühl and Ernst Grenzebach. Her original intention was to become a concert singer. An article published in Gramophone Magazine shortly after her death says that an agent heard her singing at a window and convinced her to become an opera singer instead. I seriously doubt that this story is true.

1918

Jul. 1.Seinemeyer made her operatic debut at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Opera (a forerunner of the current Deutsche Oper Berlin) in the title role in Offenbach's Die schöne Helena (La belle Hélène). Most sources say her debut role was Eurydice in Offenbach's Orpheus in der Unterwelt (Orphée aux enfers), but I have not found any evidence that she ever sang this role. One source says that she made her debut in Hamburg in 1914 and also sang in Wiesbaden in 1916, but I haven't found anything else to confirm this; I think she was still a student at the conservatory in those years. Seinemeyer stayed with the Charlottenburg Opera until 1924, and continued to give guest performances in Berlin throughout her career, even after she had joined the Dresden Opera. Some sources say she also auditioned at the Berlin Staatsoper.

1919

Nov. 8. She made her first recordings for the Artiphon label on this date; her very first recording was as Micaela in Carmen, in a duet with the tenor Johannes Scheurich. The date for these recordings has usually been given as Dec. 8, 1924. See Christian Zwarg's website, Truesound Transfers, for more details on why the 1919 date is correct.

1923

Jan.-Apr. Between January and April, 1923, Seinemeyer toured the U.S. with the German Opera Company (sometimes called the German Grand Opera Company), which included such prominent singers as Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Jacques Urlus, Ottilie Metzger, and Theodor Lattermann; among the conductors were Leo Blech and Eduard Mörike. Seinemeyer sang first in Baltimore, then in Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Detroit, and possibly in Pittsburgh and Cleveland as well. Her roles included Elsa in Lohengrin, Eva in Die Meistersinger, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Senta in Der fliegende Holländer, and Agathe in Der Freischütz. Seinemeyer was reviewed very well, for the most part, in spite of being completely unknown in the U.S. at the time (none of the advance publicity for the tour, at least none that I've seen, included her name). Her best reviews were in Tannhäuser and Der fliegende Holländer; her reviews in Lohengrin and Die Meistersinger seem to have been less enthusiastic, in general, although I have seen good reviews for her in both these operas. Some sources say she returned to the U.S. in 1924, but I have found no evidence of this. In the German Opera Company's 1924 season, several of Seinemeyer's roles were taken by Claire Dux.

1924

Nov. 29. Seinemeyer gave a guest performance at the Dresden State Opera as Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, to such acclaim that she was immediately offered a contract. Dresden remained Seinemeyer's artistic home until the end of her life.

1925

Jan. 31. The first major production Seinemeyer sang in as a member of the Dresden opera company was the local premiere of Umberto Giordano's Andrea Chenier. Her Maddalena won praise from the composer himself, who was in the audience. The tenor Tino Pattiera, who became her most famous stage and recording partner, sang the title role.

May 21. Seinemeyer sang the role of the Duchess of Parma in the world premiere of Busoni's Doktor Faust.

Summer. She was invited to sing the role of Eva in Die Meistersinger at Bayreuth, but did not go. (I do not know why, at this point.) Claire Born, who often substituted for her in Dresden, took her place. Later that summer, Seinemeyer appeared as Elisabeth in Tannhäuser at the Zoppot Festival.

Nov. 17 She made her first recordings for Parlophon; all of her subsequent recordings were for this label. Her first Parlophon recording was "La mamma morta" from Andrea Chenier, sung in German; later, in 1928, she would record the same aria in Italian. This recording also marked the beginning of Seinemeyer's close professional (and personal) relationship with the conductor Frieder Weissmann.

1926

Mar. 20. Seinemeyer sang the role of Leonora in the Dresden premiere of Franz Werfel's German translation of Verdi's Forza del Destino. Also in the cast were Tino Pattiera as Alvaro, Robert Burg as Carlo, and Friedrich Plaschke as Padre Guardiano; the conductor was Fritz Busch, who was the director of the Dresden Opera at the time and who conducted many of Seinemeyer's performances there. Many consider this performance to be the beginning of the "Verdi Renaissance" in Germany (more about this later). It was her performance in Forza that really made Seinemeyer famous. She acquired a huge following in Dresden, and was known as "the beloved Seinemeyer". But, unfortunately, it was also during this performance that the first signs of her fatal illness (almost certainly leukemia) showed themselves. A review in the Berliner Tageblatt, while praising her performance, said that she appeared tired after a recent illness. A friend of hers, John Hague, also said that her illness began in 1926, although he called it TB. (This seems extremely unlikely to me; she could not have sung so well if she'd had TB, because it would have ruined her breath control.)

May-Aug. Seinemeyer went to Buenos Aires and sang the roles of Sieglinde in Die Walküre, Eva in Die Meistersinger, Agathe in Der Freischütz, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser at the Teatro Colón. She may have sung elsewhere in South America, too; I'm not certain about that. She had to cut short her stay in South America because of illness.

1927

May 20. Seinemeyer and other members of the Dresden Opera made a guest appearence at the International Music Festival in Geneva. She sang the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier and, possibly, the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro.

Jun. 22 and 24. She made a guest appearance at the Vienna Staatsoper, first as Tosca and then as Aida. The critic of the Neue freie Presse gave her a rather negative review because her interpretation of Tosca did not, in his opinion, come up to the standard set by his ideal Tosca, Maria Jeritza. It also sounds as if Seinemeyer was nervous, and her voice tired out during the last act. But in spite of this, the critic basically liked the voice itself, and it sounds as if the audience liked her, even though they gave the most applause to the tenor, Alfred Piccaver, who was a great favorite of theirs. I do not know whether the Vienna Opera was thinking of offering her a contract. I have read, in a biography of Lotte Lehmann, that it was the custom at the time for the Vienna Staatsoper to offer two guest performance to singers they were considering for a contract. Since Seinemeyer gave two guest performances, I wonder if that was the case with her.

Aug. 5. Seinemeyer made a guest appearance at the Berlin Staatsoper, as Leonora in Forza del Destino; the cast included Tino Pattiera as Alvaro, Heinrich Schlusnus as Carlo, and Emanuel List as Padre Guardiano; Leo Blech conducted.

1928

Sept. 12. She sang the title role in a new production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut at the Dresden Opera, with Max Hirzel as Des Grieux and Robert Burg as Lescaut. Later, Angela Kolniak took over the role of Manon.

Nov. 24. Seinemeyer sang in Le Nozze di Figaro, as the Countess, in The Hague, with Ludwig Ermold as Figaro, Herbert Janssen as the Count, and Lotte Schöne as Susanna; Egon Pollak conducted.

Dec. 17. She sang the role of Margiana in Peter Cornelius' Der Barbier von Bagdad in Dresden with Ivar Andrésen, Curt Taucher, Helene Jung, Heinrich Tessmer, and Robert Burg.

1929

Jan. 26. She appeared as Lisa in a new production of Tschaikovsky's Pique Dame in Dresden; as far as I know, this was her last new role. She was scheduled to appear as Teresa in Dresden's production of Berlioz's Benvenuto Cellini in June, but she was too ill to sing; Angela Kolniak took her place.

Apr. 24. Seinemeyer made her last published recording, as Sieglinde in Die Walküre, with tenor Curt Taucher.

May 3. She made her very last recording, from Der fliegende Holländer, with baritone Robert Burg. This recording remains unpublished. (Do any of you know if it still exists?) Seinemeyer, perfectionist that she was, was not satisfied with the way she sang; she had planned to re-do the recording after she returned from London. But by the time she returned, she was too ill to do any more work on the recording.

May 9-21. Seinemeyer gave five performances at Covent Garden in London: two each as Sieglinde in Die Walküre and Eva in Die Meistersinger; one as Elsa in Lohengrin. All her roles were shared with Lotte Lehmann. In her Lohengrin performance (and not in Die Walküre, as has been reported), she substituted for Lehmann at the last minute and won over some disappointed Lehmann fans. Seinemeyer was highly praised by the critics, although some critics, reviewing her first performance as Sieglinde, commented that they sometimes had a hard time hearing her over the orchestra. I have no doubt that this was because of her illness. She kept her illness a closely-guarded secret, known only to her family and close friends, so none of the critics knew she was ill. There were no such comments, as far as I know, about her Elsa or Eva, or her second performance as Sieglinde. A review of the entire Covent Garden season said she was one of the most promising of the newcomers, and she was invited back for the next season.

Unfortunately, she caught the flu in London and, because of her leukemia, could not recover. She went to Switzerland and Bad Kissingen for treatment. (Sources disagree on how long she stayed at Bad Kissingen.) But none of the treatments helped her. She returned to Dresden at the beginning of August.

June. According to the entry for Seinemeyer at operissimo.com, she sang at the Wagner Festival in Paris, which was held in June, 1929, but I have found no evidence of this; in fact, a review in La revue musicale says that Emmy Kruger sang the role of Sieglinde at the Paris Wagner Festival. It could be that Seinemeyer was originally scheduled for those performances but had to cancel because she was too sick, but I'm not certain. Amazingly, considering how advanced her illness was at this point, she sang the Marschallin in a performance of Der Rosenkavalier in Dresden on June 9, and, according to another source, she also sang four performances in July.

Aug. 19. Seinemeyer died in Dresden, at the age of 33. Fourteen days before her death, she was brought to the Johannstädter Hospital, Dresden, from Bad Kissingen, in a special car. On Aug. 19, she was given a blood transfusion, with blood that a friend of hers had donated. But the transfusion didn't work, and she died that evening, between 7:30 and 8:00. A few hours before her death, she was married to Frieder Weissmann, on her hospital bed. (These details come from an obituary by Johannes Reichelt, in the Neue preussiche Kreuz-Zeitung, Berlin.) On Aug. 23, she was buried at the Stahnsdorfer Friedhof in Berlin.

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Copyright 2002 Vicki Kondelik.