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Elisabeth Höngen (Contralto)

Born: December 7, 1906 - Grevelsberg, Westphalia, Germany
Died: August 1997

The German contralto, Elisabeth Höngen, appeared already for 15 years publicly as a violinist, before she studied German and music science at the University and at the Music College of Berlin. Her voice was trained by Hermann Weißenborn in Berlin.

Elisabeth Höngen made her debut in 1933 at the State Theatre of Wuppertal, and from there she came in 1935 to the Opera House of Düsseldorf, where she remained until 1940. Already in 1934 she made guest appearance with the Wuppertal Ensemble in Holland as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro. In 1938 she was again in Holland, now with the Opera House of Düsseldorf to be heard as Fricka in Walküre. In 1937 she participated in Düsseldorf in the premiere of the opera Magnus Fahlander by Fritz von Borries. From 1940 to 1943 she was a member of the Dresden State Opera. Here she participated, among other things, in February 1942 in the premiere of the opera Die Zauberinsel by H. Sutermeister. In 1943 she started an engagement at the Vienna State Opera, (starting role: Ortrud in Lohengrin), to whose most prominent artists she belonged during the following 29 years. The singer was celebrated at Milan’s La Scala, at London’s Covent Garden (1947 and 1959-1960) at Teatro Colón of Buenos Aires, at the Grand Opéra Paris, in Amsterdam, Zürich, Berlin and Munich.

In 1951-1952 Elisabeth Höngen was active at the Metropolitan Opera New York (starting role: Herodias in Salome). She sang at the Metropolitan Opera also Waltraute in Der Ring des Nibelungen and Klytämnestra in Elektra by R. Strauss. In Vienna she participated in 1965 in the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s The Rake's Progress as Türkenbaba. She had important successes at the Salzburg Festival, including in 1950 in the title role of Benjamin Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, in 1948-1949 as Orpheus of Gluck, in 1948 and 1956 as Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, in 1949-1950 as Clairon in Capriccio by R. Strauss, in 1958 in the premiere of the opera Julietta by Heimo Erbse, in addition to many concert performances. The artist sang at the Festivals of Edinburgh and Bayreuth (1951 Fricka and Waltraute in Der Ring des Nibelungen) as well as at the Maggio Musicale Florence.

In 1957 Elisabeth Höngen was appointed as a Professor in the Vienna Music Academy (until 1960), however her great career continued. Until 1971 she appeared at the Vienna State Opera, where she presented to the audience 44 different roles at this house alone. As the last role she sang in the same year at the Viennese Volksoper Principessa in Suor Angelica by Puccini. Her rich, beautifully formed voice, with dramatic delivery and strength and her feeling for style excited admiration. Her talents were shown to their best in roles like Klytaemnestra in Elektra, Lady Macbeth, Herodias in Salome, Amme in the Frau ohne Schatten, and Ortrud in Lohengrin.

Recordings: HMV-Electrola (9th Symphony by L.v. Beethoven), Philips, DGG (Elektra, Lied cycle Frauenliebe und –leben by R. Schumann) Columbia (Lieder), Seraphim (Hänsel und Gretel), UORC (Frau ohne Schatten by R. Strauss), Urania (Macbeth by Verdi), Decca (Frau ohne Schatten), Bruno Walter Society (complete Der Ring des Nibelungen), Murray Hill (Erda in Siegfried, Fricka in Rheingold and Walküre), (Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro), Cetra Opera Live (Aida), Rococo (Elektra in the role of Klytämnestra), Melodram (F minor Mass by Bruckner, Verdi’s Requiem).

Books: E. Wurm: ‘Elizabeth Höngen. An artist picture’ (Vienna, 1966).

Source: Fraunstadt Archiv Website; Operissimo Website, English translation by Aryeh Oron (July 2001)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2001)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Fritz Lehmann


BWV 170

Links to other Sites

Höngen, Elisabeth (Fraunstadt Archiv)


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