ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF by Alan Jefferson

ELISABETH SCHWARZKOPF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 An unauthorized biography of the Teflon diva's career from its beginnings in Nazi Germany to her old age. Famed for her iron will, her cool elegance, and especially for the lyrical beauty of her voice, soprano Schwarzkopf found herself caught between art and politics. Her rise in the world of music coincided with the rise of the Nazi Party. Indeed, the young Schwarzkopf was a favorite of Goebbels's and received his support. Jefferson shows that she became a Nazi Party member early on, that she repeatedly lied about or otherwise minimized her party status after the war, and that the Allied authorities were well aware of her Nazi connections but allowed her to weasel out of responsibility for her past. Though rumors of her unsavory connections cast a shadow over her career, they didn't impede her rise to superstardom. All of this should prove to be gripping material for a biography. Unfortunately, Jefferson seems content to supply a simple chronology of events. He views Schwarzkopf at a distance, failing to give us a deeper understanding of her personality, her motives, her thoughts, or the context of her life. This superficiality may to some extent be inevitable, since the singer (now in her 80s) refuses to talk about her past. Those who know her well, presumably, will not talk either. Jefferson's strength is in the realm of anecdotes drawn from Schwarzkopf's career. He is old enough to have attended her performances in person and is able to give a good account of her vocal achievement. But he seems unwilling to contemplate the deeper meanings of the great artist's complicity in political bestiality. The final two chapters serve as a critical discography of sorts. Jefferson's narrative summary of Schwarzkopf's career and art is less than probing, but it will do until a more reflective biographer comes along. (photos)

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1996
ISBN: 1-55553-272-1
Page count: 285pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996