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Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient

The soprano Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient (1804─1860) is one of the leading figures in international Opera history. She had a huge repertoire but was specifically well known for certain parts. She sang Leonore in Fidelio and Romeo in Bellini’s opera as well as music by Gluck, Spontini, Meyerbeer and many other composers. Richard Wagner (among many others) was fascinated by both her acting capabilities and her voice. Like many other well known writers in the 19th century, he praised her wide range of vocal options including her highly differentiated spectrum of colouring. She used the different modes of vocal expression as singing, screaming and talking in a very innovative way crossing the line of bel canto singing as it is considered the ideal in 19th century opera. She was perceived by Rahel Varnhagen, Ludwig Rellstab, Wagner and others as a musical „genius“, specifically as a genius of performance.  

Wagner considered her as the ideal operatic performer and created the roles of Senta and Venus in accordance to her specific ways of singing and acting. She is investigated within the project as a female singer who had great interest for gender switches on stage performing male parts with great pleasure. As she was a very famous woman in 19th century society many sources were already discovered in order to create a picture of her vocal presence in 19th century opera. Her biography as a famous singer even a public star, as a unique singer-actress and as such a counterpart for composers will be put together and accomplish the picture of this 19th century opera singer.


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