Anny Schlemm, Soprano (*1929)
Giacomo Puccini MANON LESCAUT
In quelle trine morbide (sung in german)
Conducted by Otto Ackermann, recorded 1954
1:50 Eduard Künneke LADY HAMILTON
Komm mit nach Madrid (Bolero-Duet)
With Willy Hofmann, Tenor (1909-1984)
Conducted by Franz Marszalek, recorded 1953
My personal opinion: "And you see the ones in brightness, those in darkness drop from sight" - an ancient wisdom of which Brecht and Weill reminds us one more time in THE THREEPENNY OPERA. The german soprano Anny Schlemm never stood in the bright light of the general public, although she was sixty years on stage, had a repertoire spanning from the roles of a lyric soprano to the depths of a dramatic mezzo (and from baroque to modern music). As a highly versatile artist, Anny Schlemm (born 1929 in the 'Huguenot Town' of Neu-Isenburg near to Frankfurt) belonged to the first row of important german postwar sopranos, but she never was as popular as Elfried Trötschel, Elisabeth Grümmer, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf or Anneliese Rothenberger - all of them were more favored by the record companies.
One reason may be, that Anny Schlemm was not perceived as a serious opera singer. In the early 1950s she was well-known by many radio broadcasts of operettas conducted by Franz Marszalek with Peter Anders, Franz Fehringer and the priceless Willy Hofmann, the 'chameleon' among post war buffo tenors. The relaxed atmosphere, the musicality and the immediacy of all this performances are still unparalleled. Anyhow, for Anny Schlemm it was no more, no less than a further demonstration of her great talent.
The conductor Otto Ackermann chose her for a radio production of a german sung MANON LESCAUT, and at last around 1960 Anny Schlemm was presented in several complete opera recordings. She sang MADAMA BUTTERFLY with Sándor Kónya under Ferdinand Leitner, and it was a touching and heart-melting performance - but due to the german language the recording found only little attention. If you listen carefully to both of her Puccini heroines, you may find a vocal resemblance to Licia Albanese (and also a certain physical similarity can be seen on old photographs). Both sopranos possessed a very feminine voice with passionate expression, although the sound of Anny Schlemm was a little bit more elegant, cagey and 'ladylike'. With this feature, Schlemm was able to grow into mature roles; for example the old Madelon in Giordano's ANDREA CHÉNIER (in this role I saw her in 1984 at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden) or the verger's widow Buryjovka in Janácek's JENUFA.
Anny Schlemm, whose career mainly took place on german stages, was a very disciplined singer. Her articulation and pronunciation was exemplary. The timbre was in an attractive way slightly smoky, even mysterious - in younger years it was the beguiling voice of a vamp, the ideal instrument to represent ladies of rank, class and self-assertion.
Schlemm made her debut - after trained by Erna Westenberg - in the late 1940s in Halle. She came to the 'Berliner Staatsoper' in 1949 and remained until 1961. The same time she was a member of the 'Komische Oper', where she met the famous director Walter Felsenstein, who gave her the part of the rough peasant woman Boulotte in Offenbach's opéra bouffe BARBE-BLEUE. It became her most glossing role. Schlemm sang Boulotte in 257 performances during a period of two decades (A 1973 film version is available on DVD).
A fine lyric soprano in her youth, Anny Schlemm later inserted dramatic soprano and mezzo-soprano parts to her very extensive repertoire (Mary in Wagner's THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, Herodias in SALOME and Klytämnestra in ELEKTRA by Strauss). In 1993 she performed the old Countess in THE QUEEN OF SPADES by Tchaikovsky at the 'Vienna State Opera'. There never was a wrong choice of roles, no unnecessary and incorrect extension of her 'Fach'. Each new part came the right time and was appropriate to her own age.
For the season 2002/2003 she returned to the Frankfurt Opera House to perform a last Mama Lucia in CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA. It was a dignified farewell.
On the occasion of Anny Schlemm's 80th Birthday in 2009, her hometown honored her with a gala concert. It was underlined, that the artist had achieved everything. Anny Schlemm then said jokingly: "No, not everything. I never was mayor of Neu-Isenburg!"