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Elisabeth Höngen

Biography

A chameleon-like artist, mezzo-soprano Elisabeth Höngen covered nearly the entire spectrum of roles written for her voice register. From Lady Macbeth to Marcellina in Mozart's Figaro, from Carmen to an Orfeo of spiritual probity, she impersonated her every role with a conviction that seemed to change her very physiognomy. Possessed of neither a great voice nor outstanding personal beauty, she bewitched her collaborators on stage, the conductors Read more who worked with her, and intensely loyal audiences in Austria, Germany, and elsewhere. Not a superstar, she was an ensemble player and valued colleague. Fortunately, she recorded often and many of her finest characterizations were preserved in studio and live recordings. Even without the vocal resplendence certain other artists brought to these roles, her interpretations remain inescapably compelling.

Höngen was born in Westphalia to parents who valued music as a part of family life. She took up the violin at age six and studied piano as well. Although she had an inconsequential voice, she developed a strong desire to become a singer. Despite lessons in Wupperthal, which strengthened her instrument somewhat, it was not until after she traveled to Berlin to study with Herman Weissenborn that she found her voice developing. Learning to absorb the essence of the music and to always resist forcing, she grew into the singer who could undertake both parts requiring agility and those wanting dramatic power. Showing her parents a contract for the Wupperthal Opera melted their opposition to her having a singing career, and in 1933 she made her stage debut as Irmentraut in Lortzing's Der Waffenschmied. Höngen's scope as an interpretive artist soon led to a wide range of roles. When a production of Wagner's Ring brought a near wholesale importation of artists from the Berlin Staatsoper, she alone of the Wupperthal company was assigned major roles, singing all the principal mezzo parts, Rheingold through Götterdämmerung.

From 1935 through 1940, Höngen was at Düsseldorf before responding to a call from Dresden where she continued adding to her repertory and collaborating with Germany's most celebrated artists. In 1943, Höngen accepted an invitation to become a company member at the Vienna Staatsoper and, after a successful debut as Ortrud, remained there until her retirement in 1971. In Vienna, she sang an extensive variety of roles, undertaking Verdi (Amneris, Azucena, Eboli and Ulrica as well as Lady Macbeth) in addition to Strauss, Wagner, and Mozart. A favorite role of hers was Dorabella in Così fan tutte where her gift for comedy was afforded an incomparable setting. Among her Strauss creations, the Nurse in Die Frau ohne Schatten became as incisive an impersonation as her giddy Clairon in Capriccio. The two addled mothers in Salome and Elektra also became largely Höngen's property in Vienna and they both figured in her single season at the Metropolitan Opera in 1952. In addition to Herodias and Clitemnestre, Höngen sang her fervent Waltraute. Ten performances in all represented her entire Met career.

As disappointing as her short-lived American incursion was to her, the loyalty of the Vienna public was great comfort. She had been made a Kämmersängerin in 1947 and was equally celebrated at Salzburg (where her Orfeo was revered). During her long career, she performed with nearly every one of the great conductors (save for Toscanini). She participated with Furtwängler in his La Scala Ring in 1950 and was one of a handful of veteran artists invited to reopen the Bayreuth Festival in 1951. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 69 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Tutto Puccini - Complete Giacomo Puccini Opera Edition
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 107541 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Helmut Wilhaber,  Katia Ricciarelli,  John-Paul Bogart,  Waldemar Kmentt  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Julian Reynolds,  Carlo Rizzi,  Alberto Veronesi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Modena Teatro Comunale Chorus  ... 
    DVD: $198.99
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  • 2.
    Tutto Puccini - Complete Giacomo Puccini Opera Edition [blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 107547 Release Date: 09/30/2014   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
    Performer:  Helmut Wilhaber,  Katia Ricciarelli,  John-Paul Bogart,  Waldemar Kmentt  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Julian Reynolds,  Carlo Rizzi,  Alberto Veronesi  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Modena Teatro Comunale Chorus  ... 
    Blu-ray Video: $198.99
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  • 3.
    Karajan: Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, R. Strauss, Opera Arias - 1946-1949
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 633618 Release Date: 04/08/2014   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Franz Schubert,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Leopold Wlach,  Julius Patzak,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Elisabeth Höngen  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Friends of Music Chorus
    CD: $64.49
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  • 4.
    Monteverdi: L'Orfeo (German version by Carl Orff) / Leitner
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 13029 Release Date: 09/24/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Claudio Monteverdi
    Performer:  Ernst Wiemann,  Ingeborg Bremert,  Lucretia West,  Raymond Wolansky  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Sudfunkchor Stuttgart,  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
    CD: $17.99
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  • 5.
    Beethoven: Symphony no 9
    Label: Music & Arts   Catalog: 1276 Release Date: 08/27/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Tilla Briem,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Peter Anders,  Rudolf Watzke
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bruno Kittel Choir
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  • 6.
    Marriage Of Figaro
    Label: Regis   Catalog: 1097 Release Date: 07/12/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen,  Erich Kunz,  Sena Jurinac,  Irmgard Seefried  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    CD: $11.99
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  • 7.
    Janacek: Jenufa / Rosen, Jurinac, Soderstrom, Jones, Et Al
    Label: Gala   Catalog: 7704619 Release Date: 05/24/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Leos Janácek
    Performer:  Elisabeth Söderström,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Sena Jurinac,  Anny Felbermayer  ... 
    Conductor:  Albert Rosen,  Jaroslav Krombholc
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    $16.99
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  • 8.
    Beethoven: Symphony No. 9 / Furtwangler, Berlin Philharmonic
    Label: Melodiya   Catalog: 1002014 Release Date: 05/14/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Tilla Briem,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Peter Anders,  Rudolf Watzke
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bruno Kittel Choir
    CD: $18.99
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  • 9.
    Richard Wagner - Great Recordings
    Label: Sony   Catalog: 543504 Release Date: 02/26/2013   Number of Discs: 40
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Ben Heppner,  Deborah Voigt,  Jan-Hendrik Rootering,  Birgitta Svendén  ... 
    Conductor:  James Levine,  Erich Leinsdorf,  Marek Janowski,  Joseph Keilberth  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 10.
    Gustav Klimt: Musik Seiner Epoche
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 170286 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Alban Berg,  Franz Lehár,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Kathryn Harvey,  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Gerald Moore,  Frederick Thurston  ... 
    Conductor:  Bruno Walter,  Walter Goehr,  Otto Klemperer,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New York Philharmonic,  Zurich Radio Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 11.
    Verdi: Messa Da Requiem, Etc / Jochum, Fricsay, Et Al
    Label: Archipel   Catalog: 218 Release Date: 01/01/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Maud Cunitz,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Walther Ludwig,  Josef Greindl
    Conductor:  Eugen Jochum,  Ferenc Fricsay
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Chorus,  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $9.99
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  • 12.
    Wilhelm Furtwangler - The Great EMI Recordings
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 07878 Release Date: 05/17/2011   Number of Discs: 21
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Béla Bartók,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Johannes Brahms  ... 
    Performer:  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Hans Hopf,  Otto Edelmann  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra,  Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $85.98
    CD: $73.99
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  • 13.
    Mathieu Ahlersmeyer - Recordings 1938-1943
    Label: Hafg   Catalog: 10002 Release Date: 10/29/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Kurt Böhme,  Margarete Teschemacher,  Mathieu Ahlersmeyer,  Maria Cebotari  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Elmendorff,  Karl Böhm,  Arthur Rother
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra
    ArkivCD $16.99
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  • 14.
    Menotti: The Old Maid And The Thief, The Medium
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101515 Release Date: 09/28/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Gian Carlo Menotti
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen,  Hilde Konetzni,  Olive Moorehead,  Eberhard Wächter  ... 
    Conductor:  Wolfgang Rennert,  Armando Aliberti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Volksoper Orchestra
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 15.
    Verdi: Falstaff / Santi, Edelmann, Grimm, Van Vrooman, Wiener Symphoniker
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 101507 Release Date: 07/27/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Melitta Muszely,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Hans Gunter Grimm,  Graziella Sciutti  ... 
    Conductor:  Nello Santi
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Wiener Symphoniker
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 16.
    Dokumente Einer Sangerkarriere: Elisabeth Hongen
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 93465 Release Date: 04/13/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Georges Bizet,  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Hetty Plümacher,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Gustav Grefe,  Walther Ludwig  ... 
    Conductor:  Ferdinand Leitner,  Sir G. Solti
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 17.
    Furtwangler Conducts Wagner's
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 914 Release Date: 03/25/2010   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Set Svanholm,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Max Lorenz,  Günther Treptow  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
    Recommendation
    ArkivCD $70.99
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  • 18.
    Lieder Von Gustav Mahler, Johannes Brahms Und Richard Strauss
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 93456 Release Date: 01/12/2010   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Johannes Brahms,  Gustav Mahler,  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen,  Hermann Schey,  Heinrich Schlusnus,  Christel Goltz
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 19.
    Mozart: Le Nozze Di Figaro / Karajan, Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Kunz, London, Jurinac
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 66807 Release Date: 11/17/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen,  Wilhelm Felden,  Erich Majkut,  Anny Felbermayer  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
    Recommendation
    CD: $24.99
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  • 20.
    In Memoriam Christel Goltz
    Label: Preiser Records   Catalog: 93455 Release Date: 09/08/2009   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Christoph W. Gluck,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Carl Maria von Weber,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Christel Goltz,  Bernd Aldenhoff,  Max Lorenz,  Elisabeth Wysor  ... 
    Conductor:  Arthur Rother,  Robert Heger,  Kurt Striegler,  Ferdinand Leitner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin RIAS Symphony Orchestra,  Bavarian State Orchestra,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
    On sale! $22.98
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  • 21.
    Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Furtwängler, La Scala
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 1501 Release Date: 02/26/2008   Number of Discs: 12
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Hilde Konetzni,  Margret Weth-Falke,  Elisabeth Höngen,  Sieglinde Wagner  ... 
    Conductor:  Wilhelm Furtwängler
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
    On sale! $116.98
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  • 22.
    Franco Corelli - 7 Complete Operas
    Label: Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog: 9902 Release Date: 10/16/2007   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Ruggero Leoncavallo,  Giacomo Puccini,  Umberto Giordano,  Gaetano Donizetti  ... 
    Performer:  Franco Corelli,  Tito Gobbi,  Mafalda Micheluzzi,  Mario Carlin  ... 
    Conductor:  Alfredo Simonetto,  Sir Alexander Gibson,  Lovro von Matacic,  Antonino Votto  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Chorus Milan,  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Milan,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus  ... 
    Recommendation
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 23.
    The World's Most Romantic Operas
    Label: Bravissimo Opera Library   Catalog: 9807 Release Date: 10/16/2007   Number of Discs: 14
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Jules Massenet,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Gaetano Donizetti  ... 
    Performer:  Alessandro Maddalena,  Mirella Freni,  Nicolai Ghiuselev,  Franco Calabrese  ... 
    Conductor:  Thomas Schippers,  Peter Maag,  Nino Verchi,  Gianandrea Gavazzeni  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Italian Radio Chorus Rome,  Italian Radio Symphony Orchestra Rome,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus  ... 
    On sale! $33.98
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  • 24.
    Label: Archipel   Catalog: 369 Release Date: 09/25/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Giovanni Battista Pergolesi,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen
    Conductor:  Mario Rossi
    CD: $9.99
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  • 25.
    R. Strauss: Scenes From Operas / Bohm, Teschemacher, Goltz
    Label: Profil   Catalog: 7039 Release Date: 08/28/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Elisabeth Höngen,  Esther Réthy,  Margarete Teschemacher,  Torsten Ralf  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Dresden Staatskapelle,  Dresden State Opera Orchestra
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