Anneliese Rothenberger (1924-2010)

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Germany’s beloved lyric soprano dies in Switzerland

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Anneliese Rothenberger, an acclaimed Strauss soprano, the creator of several roles in contemporary opera and a beloved figure on German television, has died aged 83.

Rothenberger’s exceptional acting abilities and light voice made her ideal for Richard Strauss's young heroines such as Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and Zdenka in Arabella. Her appearance in a film version of Der Rosenkavalier in 1961, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, earned her the accolade of ‘the best Sophie in the world’ from one of Strauss’s most renowned collaborators, the soprano Lotte Lehmann.

Born in Mannheim, Rothenberger studied there at the Musikhochschule, and made her debut in Koblenz in 1943. In 1946 she joined the new Hamburg opera company, first taking the role of the youthful page Oscar in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, then subsequently the roles of Blonde in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail, and Alban Berg’s Lulu.

She was part of the regular ensemble in Hamburg until 1959, during which time she appeared at the company’s production of Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler at the 1952 Edinburgh Festival, the first staging of that opera in the UK.

In 1954 she made her debut at the Salzburg Festival, creating the role of Telemachus in Rolf Liebermann’s Penelope. She was to make regular appearances at the Festival until 1973.

Rothenberger toured extensively in the mid-1950s to the late ’60s, appearing at Glyndebourne and the New York Met as Sophie, and also in London, Munich and Vienna, during which time she sang a total of 365 performance in 20 roles.

In 1971 she presented the first programme on the German TV channel ZDF of her television show Anneliese Rothenberger gibt sich die Ehre, a show which ran for a decade and made her a beloved celebrity, chatting and performing with artists from a variety of different genres of music. She gave her final opera performances in 1983, and her final recital in 1989.

Daniel Jaffé

Related links:
Meet the Artist: Danielle de Niese on mixing opera and reality TV
CD Review: Gluck: Der betrogene Kadi, with Anneliese Rothenberger
CD Review: Millocker: Gasparone, with Anneliese Rothenberger