Unanswered Questions

The following are unanswered questions, and problems I've come across in my research on Seinemeyer. If you can help with any of these, please e-mail me or fill out the feedback form, which should work even if you don't have e-mail.

NOTE: Some of these have been updated, based on new evidence from a collection assembled by Hertha Seinemeyer (Seinemeyer's sister-in-law), which is now in my possession.

Table of contents:

What happened to Seinemeyer's unpublished recordings?

Seinemeyer made the following recordings that remained unpublished:

Puccini: La Bohème. Man nennt mich jetzt Mimi. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-8441. Recorded Nov. 17, 1925. (Note: this is not the same as the published version, which was recorded Oct. 12, 1926.)

Gounod: Faust. Ha, welch’ Glück (Jewel Song). Parlophon, matrix no. 2-8442. Recorded Nov. 17, 1925.

Bizet: Carmen. Ich sprach, daß ich furchtlos mich fühle (Micaela’s Aria). Parlophone, matrix no. 2-8808. Recorded Apr. 12, 1926.

Verdi: Forza del Destino. Eine Frau bin ich. With Ivar Andrésen. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-8995-8 (4 sides). Recorded Nov. 27, 1926.

Mozart: Nozze di Figaro. Heil’ge Quelle reiner Triebe (Porgi amor). Parlophon, matrix no. 2-20254-1, -2. Recorded May 3 or 4, 1927.

Strauss: Ich trage meine Minne. With Frieder Weissmann, piano. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-20257. Recorded May 3 or 4, 1927.

Verdi: Forza del Destino. So beginne. With Ivar Andrésen. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-20544. Recorded Dec. 27, 1927.

Verdi: Forza del Destino. Preis dir. With Ivar Andrésen. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-20546. Recorded Dec. 27, 1927.

Schubert: Du bist die Ruh’. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-20716. Recorded Apr. 19, 1928.

Wagner: Die Walküre. War Wälse dein Vater. With Curt Taucher. (The last part of the Siegmund/Sieglinde duet, the first four sides of which were published.) Parlophon, matrix no. 2-21382. Recorded Apr. 24, 1929.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. Wie aus der Ferne. With Robert Burg. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-21396. Recorded May 3, 1929.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. Er steht vor mir mit leidvollen Zügen. With Robert Burg. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-21397. Recorded May 3, 1929.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. Wer du auch seist. With Robert Burg. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-21398. Recorded May 3, 1929.

Wagner: Der fliegende Holländer. Ein heil’ger Balsam meinen Wunden. With Robert Burg, Georg Zottmayr. Parlophon, matrix no. 2-21399. Recorded May 3, 1929.

I would like to know:
1. Do any of these recordings still exist? If so, where are they?
2. Why did they remain unpublished? I know that the recordings from Der fliegende Holländer remained unpublished because Seinemeyer was not satisfied with the way she sang, and wanted to work on them again after her return from London. But by that time, she was too ill to do any more work on the recordings. But the other, earlier, recordings? I don't know why they remained unpublished.

Was Seinemeyer Jewish?

There is some evidence that Seinemeyer was Jewish, but there is also evidence she was not. Here is what I've found so far:

Evidence that Seinemeyer was Jewish:

1. According to Horst Wahl, in his history of Odeon Records, Seinemeyer's recordings were banned by the Nazis. But I don't know if that's because Seinemeyer herself was Jewish or because she was married to a Jewish man, Frieder Weissmann, who conducted almost all of her recordings.

2. She and Weissmann were married in a Jewish ceremony (again, this is according to Horst Wahl, in his article "Erinnerungen an Meta Seinemeyer", published in Stimmen, die um die Welt gingen).

3. I have also heard that she was given a Jewish funeral, but I have no evidence to confirm this. She was not buried in a Jewish cemetery.

4. Her mother's maiden name was Wassermann, which has been called a "Jewish name" (not necessarily, of course). There are many people named Wassermann listed in a Berlin Jewish directory for 1931 (Jüdisches Adressbuch für Gross-Berlin), but, unfortunately, I don't know enough about her family to be able to tell whether some of these Wassermanns were her relatives.

5. The notes to the Pearl CD of Seinemeyer refer to "her Jewish father". But the author of the notes has definitely seen Wahl's article. Wahl seems to think of her as Jewish (and Wahl was a friend of hers, so I'm sure he would know). Wahl never says for certain that her father was Jewish, though.

Evidence that Seinemeyer was not Jewish:

1. In the entry for Seinemeyer in the Deutsches Musiker-Lexikon, which is based on a questionnaire that she filled out, her religion is listed as "evengelisch" (Lutheran).

2. Her father is not listed in the Jüdisches Adressbuch für Gross-Berlin, even though he was still living in Berlin in 1931, when this directory was published. No other Seinemeyers are listed in the directory, either.

3. None of the books about Jewish musicians (including the ones published by the Nazis) mention her. Of course, the Nazis might not have known she was Jewish. But if they didn't know, why did they ban her recordings? Even much more recent books with chapters on Jewish singers (such as Jens Malte Fischer's Grosse Stimmen) don't mention her as being Jewish.

4. She is not in any of the CD collections of Jewish singers, that I know of. Once again, though, the people who put together the CD collections might not have known.

5. Her family stayed in Germany during World War II, as far as I know. There are definitely some Seinemeyers living in Germany. Of course, the family may have left and come back; I wish I knew more about her family.

So, this is the evidence I've found so far, and I'm not sure what to make of it. My own guess is that Seinemeyer's mother was Jewish and her father was not (the comment in the Pearl notes may have been an error), and that she was brought up as a Lutheran. But I don't know for certain!

New evidence: From Hertha Seinemeyer's collection, it appears that Seinemeyer was definitely not Jewish. At her funeral, there was a church service with a Lutheran minister (whose name was Luther), and there are photos of a large cross at her grave. One account of her funeral says she had been confirmed in the Lutheran Church, by the same minister. It may have been that her mother's family was originally Jewish; I still don't know that.

Why didn't Seinemeyer sing at the Met?

I'm planning to ask someone at the Met Archives about this, but if you know the answer, please e-mail me.

I believe that Seinemeyer would have made it to the Met eventually, if she had lived longer. But I think it would have been possible for her to sing there on several occasions. First of all, when she was in the U.S. with the German Opera Company in 1923, she received, for the most part, very good reviews. Several members of the company were offered Met contracts as a result of their performances during this tour; Friedrich Schorr is the most famous of them, but some of Seinemeyer's soprano colleagues, Marcella Roeseler and Editha Fleischer, sang at the Met. Roeseler, especially, sang much the same repertoire as Seinemeyer and did not always receive such good reviews during the tour. So, why did the Met make offers to Roeseler and Fleischer, but not Seinemeyer? Or could it be that the Met did make an offer to Seinemeyer, but she refused? It could be that she did not want to stay so far from Berlin, for so long, at that point in her career.

Also, when Seinemeyer became more famous, the Met could have made an offer. I know that they sent their talent scouts to Dresden; Max Lorenz was hired by the Met after their talent scout had seen him in Dresden. Especially after her triumph in Forza del Destino in 1926, a very famous performance, the Met could have taken notice of her. So why didn't they? Or, once again, it is possible that they did, and she refused their offer. I remember reading that the Met considered offering her tenor partner, Tino Pattiera, a contract at one time. So why not Seinemeyer, who was even more successful in the Forza performance? (Pattiera's reviews in that performance, unlike Seinemeyer's, were not always favorable.)

It could also be that the Met became interested in Seinemeyer when it was too late. After her success at Covent Garden, it would be surprising if the Met did not take notice. But by that time it would have been too late; Seinemeyer was too ill to sing again after her performances in London. I'm sure the Met would not have known that, though; she kept her illness a secret, and Covent Garden had invited her back for the next season.

So, it's a mystery, why she didn't sing at the Met. I don't know whether the Met never considered her at all, or whether they did, but she refused their offer. Or perhaps the offer came too late.

New evidence: The collection assembled by Hertha Seinemeyer contains a postcard from Seinemeyer to her father, dated March 27, 1926. In this postcard, Seinemeyer tells her father that negotiations are under way for a contract with the Met. This was a week after the famous Forza del Destino performance. So the Met was definitely interested in her. Now my question is, what happened with this contract with the Met, and why didn't she sing there? This was over three years before her death; certainly she would have had time to sing at the Met if the negotiations had succeeded. So why didn't they? I have contacted the Met Archive about it, but they said it would take searching through several years of correspondence with Europe to find the answer. And I would still like to know if the Met was interested in her in 1923, after her U.S. tour.

Do any of Seinemeyer's radio broadcasts still exist?

The following Seinemeyer performances were broadcast on the radio:

Lohengrin, Philadelphia, Feb. 6, 1923. Broadcast on station WIP, Philadelphia.

Tannhäuser, Philadelphia, Feb. 9, 1923. Broadcast on station WIP, Philadelphia.

Lohengrin, Act 1, London, May 10, 1923. Broadcast on the BBC.

(Probably some of her other performances were broadcast as well, but I haven't come across anything that says they were.)

I doubt that broadcast performances were preserved as early as 1923, but certainly by 1929 they were. Do any of you know whether the broadcast of the first act of Lohengrin from Covent Garden still exists? If you have any information about this, or if you know of any other broadcasts with Seinemeyer that still exist, please e-mail me.

Were Seinemeyer's London performances really her last?

A 2-CD set called "A Memorial Tribute to Dr. Frieder Weissmann" contains a recorded interview with Weissmann; unfortunately, the interviewer's questions have been edited out. (For more details about these CDs, read this page.) In the interview, Weissmann mentions a young soprano I'm convinced is Seinemeyer; there is no one else who fits the description. He says she died young, of cancer (not specifically leukemia), and that she sang in Berlin, later in Dresden, and also in the U.S. But he gets her age wrong; he says she was 28, not 33, when she died. And, even more interestingly, he never mentions the fact that he was married to her, even for so short a time. All he says is that she was a wonderful soprano. Then he tells a story about what he says was her very last performance. He says that the opera was Der Rosenkavalier and that he and a friend were there; after the performance, they went backstage. She was crying, and told them, "This is the last time I will ever sing." The problem with this story is that, as far as I know, Seinemeyer's last performances were in London, and the very last opera she sang was Die Walküre. (See the chronology for details.) Weissmann was not with her in London, and he is obviously referring to a performance in Germany. Is it possible that she gave another performance in Germany after her return from London? I wouldn't think so; from what I've read, she went directly from London to various health resorts, the last of which was Bad Kissingen; early in August 1929, she left Bad Kissingen for the hospital in Dresden, where she died two weeks later. I don't see how she could have sung another performance in Germany during that time. She would have been too ill. It could be that Weissmann is referring to her last performance in Dresden before she left for London. (Unfortunately, I don't have access to the Dresden newspapers, so I don't know which opera that was.) But then, why would she say "This is the last time I will ever sing", when she knew she would be singing in London? It's a mystery! If you have any information about Seinemeyer's last performance in Dresden, or if you know of a performance she sang in Germany after her London performances, please e-mail me.

New evidence: Well, it turns out I was completely wrong about this! According to several detailed obituaries from Dresden newspapers, which I found in Hertha Seinemeyer's collection, Seinemeyer sang at least one more performance after her return from London: Der Rosenkavalier in Dresden on June 9, 1929. One obituary also mentions four performances in July: Die Meistersinger, Cosi fan tutte, Andrea Chenier, and Der Rosenkavalier; it does not give dates for these performances, or say where they took place. The other obituaries say that the June 9 Der Rosenkavalier was her very last performance. A Dresden program for Le Nozze di Figaro, June 19, 1929, lists her as singing the Countess in that performance, but it's possible that she was too ill to sing. It still amazes me that she was able to sing at all after her return from London.

When were Seinemeyer's first recordings made: 1919 or 1924?

Most sources list Seinemeyer's first recordings, for Artiphon, as being made in 1924. The discographer Floris Juynboll gives the date as Dec. 8, 1924, and Preiser used that date in the notes to their 4-CD set of Seinemeyer. But Christian Zwarg of Truesound transfers gives a date of Nov. 8, 1919 for Seinemeyer's Artiphon recordings; they are listed that way in Zwarg's Artiphon discography. According to Zwarg, the code on the records reads "L 8 G", which means Nov. 8, 1919. 1919 does seem very early in Seinemeyer's career for her to be making recordings; it was only a year after her debut. But Zwarg says that Artiphon was one of the smallest record companies in Germany and would record anyone, even a newcomer, as long as they didn't have to pay very much. Another good argument for the 1919 date is that Seinemeyer recorded only duets for Artiphon; the lack of solo recordings would indicate that she wasn't considered a "star" singer. By Dec. 8, 1924, Seinemeyer was well on her way to being considered a "star"; she had had a successful tour to the U.S., she had sung a triumphant performance of Faust in Dresden, where she was about to become a permanent member of the company, and she was certainly one of the leading sopranos of the Deutsche Oper Berlin.

But there are also arguments for the 1924 date. Juynboll, whose work is usually very reliable, says that the codes on the records read "L 8 C" and mean Dec. 8, 1924. (It is the "C" or the "G" that stands for the year, and it's very easy to mistake one for the other, particularly on a scratched record.) Also, Seinemeyer was very enthusiastic about making recordings. Why would there be such a huge gap between recordings, from 1919 to 1925, the year she made her first recordings for Parlophon? Zwarg says that rather few operatic recordings were being made in Germany during those years, because of the inflation. That might be the reason, of course. And it could also be that Seinemeyer's enthusiasm for recordings developed later, when she was making recordings for Parlophon. But until I can find more conclusive evidence, I think a good case could be made for either date. Does anyone know if Artiphon catalogs from the period 1919-1924 still exist? If the Seinemeyer recordings appear in a pre-1924 catalog, that would prove they were made before that date, probably in 1919.

New evidence: I still have not been able to get access to Artiphon catalogs from 1919-1924, but someone who has a clean copy of one of the original Artiphon records checked the code and says the letter is definitely a "G". So it looks like the 1919 date is right after all!

More to come...

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Copyright 2002 Vicki Kondelik.