German born operatic soprano and voice teacher, Lilli Lehmann (1848-1929) was a rarity in the voice world. She was equally masterful as a performing artist and teaching practitioner. Lehmann sustained a long performance career into her 70’s, where she continued performing as a Lieder Singer. She was a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York and appeared at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Salzburg Festival, for which she later became the artistic director.
As a voice teacher, Lehmann had students of international acclaim, including Geraldine Farrar and Olive Fremstad. In 1902, she wrote and published “How to sing”, a book that incorporated the science of the voice (known at that time) with sensation-based experiences of the singer. Lehmann developed famous charts for the sound “placement” of various notes and sounds. She is also well known for emphasising head voice in her teaching, as she believed that it was often neglected by singers and teachers alike. On the topic of head voice, Lehmann states:
The head voice is the most valuable possession of all singers, male and female. Without its aid all voices lack brilliancy and carrying power … By it alone can we effect a complete equalization of the whole compass of all voices, and extend that compass . . . Without it all voices of which great exertions are demanded infallibly meet disaster. (1 p34)Lilli Lehmann
Lehmann’s writings deliver strong opinions and pearls of wisdom about many other aspects of singing and vocal technique. Perhaps the following quote best sums up her teaching philosophy and speaks to her enduring legacy as a voice teacher and singer.
“Technique is inseparable from art. Only by mastering the technique of his material is the artist in a condition to mould his mental work of art and to give it … to others. Even artists intellectually highly gifted remain crippled without this mastery of the technique.”Lilli Lehmann
- Coffin B. “How to Sing” (1914): Lilli Lehmann. Journal of Singing. 1984;40(5):33.
- Contributor U. Lilli Lehmann [Internet]. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation; 2020 [cited 2020Nov17]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilli_Lehmann
- Lehman L. Vowel Placement Chart [Internet]. Brain Pickings. 2020 [cited 2020Nov18]. Available from: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/12/04/how-to-sing-lilli-lehmann-1902/
- Lehmann L. HOW TO SING. 3rd ed. Mineola, NY: Macmillan; 1993.
- Lilli Lehmann Sings “Ah, Fors’è Lui,” From La Traviata 1906 [Internet]. Youtube. 2013 [cited 2020Nov18]. Available from: https://youtu.be/Rh0KdfdgUXI
- Lilli Lehmann sings Kostanze’s 24 C6s and 15 D6s at 58 years old! (1907) [Internet]. Youtube. 2019 [cited 2020Nov18]. Available from: https://youtu.be/5it2Xl9C4KA
- Photographer U. Lilli Lehman. 1901.
- Schaarwächter JC. Portrait with signature, 1903.