Meta Seinemeyer 1895-1929

Meta Seinemeyer fut une soprano allemande, tragiquement décédée d’une leucémie à l’âge de 33 ans et considérée comme l’une des plus grandes voix de soprano lyrique et dramatique du XXème siècle.

Elle est née à Berlin le 5 septembre 1895, fille de Wilhelm Seinemeyer et Anna Seinemeyer (née Wassermann). Son père était officier de police avec le grade de Kriminalkommissar (inspecteur-détective). Elle fréquenta le Mädchen-Lyzeum (un lycée pour filles) et le Haushaltungsschule (une école d’économie domestique) à Berlin. Elle étudia au Conservatoire Stern de Berlin avec Ernst Grenzebach et Nikolaus Rothmühl.

Elle débuta à l’opéra de Berlin-Charlottenburg (précurseur de l’actuelle Deutsche Operde Berlin) en 1918, en Eurydice (Eurydice et Orphée de Gluck) ou peut-être dans le rôle titre de La Belle Hélène d’Offenbach; sur ce point les sources divergent. Seinemeyer resta à l’Opéra de Charlottenburg jusqu’en 1924 et continua à donner des représentations à Berlin tout au long de sa carrière, même après avoir rejoint l’Opéra de Dresde. Certaines sources affirment qu’elle a également auditionné au Staatsoper de Berlin. Le 8 novembre 1919, elle fit ses premiers enregistrements pour le label Artiphon. Le tout premier extrait était celui de Micaëla dans Carmen, en duo avec le ténor Johannes Scheurich.

Meta Seinemeyer

En 1923 elle fit une tournée en Amérique du Nord avec la German Opera Company (parfois appelée la German Grand Opera Company), qui comprenait des chanteurs de premier plan tels que Friedrich Schorr, Alexander Kipnis, Jacques Urlus, Ottilie Metzger et Theodor Lattermann. Parmi les chefs d’orchestre se trouvaient Leo Blech et Eduard Mörike. Seinemeyer a chanté d’abord à Baltimore, puis à Philadelphie, à New York, à Boston et à Détroit, et peut-être aussi à Pittsburgh et à Cleveland. Puis elle entra au Metropolitan Opera de New-York. Elle y chanta Elisabeth (Tannhäuser) et Eva (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg).  Ses rôles en Amérique incluaient Elsa (Lohengrin), Eva, Elisabeth, Senta (Der fliegende Holländer) et Agathe (Der Freischütz).

Elle rejoignit à l’Opéra de Dresde en 1924, où l’année suivante elle participa à la création de Doktor Faustus de Ferruccio Busoni et chanta Maddalena (Andrea Chénier) lors de la première locale en 1926. Sa Maddalena a gagné les éloges du compositeur lui-même, Umberto Giordano, qui était dans le public. Le ténor Tino Pattiera, qui est devenu son partenaire de scène et d’enregistrement le plus célèbre, chantait le rôle-titre.  Dresde est restée la maison artistique de Seinemeyer jusqu’à la fin de sa vie. 

Meta Seinemeyer

En 1925, Elle fut invitée à chanter le rôle d’Eva dans Die Meistersinger à Bayreuth, mais elle n’y est pas allée. Claire Born, qui la remplaçait souvent à Dresde, a pris sa place. Plus tard cet été-là, Seinemeyer a chanté Elisabeth (Tannhäuser) au Festival Zoppot.

Meta Seinemeyer

En 1926, elle entreprit une tournée en Amérique du Sud, et chanta le rôle d’Agathe du Freischütz au Teatro Colón de Buenos Aires. En mars 1926, Seinemeyer était Leonora dans la première à Dresde de la traduction allemande de Franz Werfel de La Force du Destin de Verdi. Elle avait comme partenaires Tino Pattiera (Alvaro), Robert Burg (Carlo) et Friedrich Plaschke (Padre Guardiano); le chef d’orchestre était Fritz Busch, qui était alors directeur de l’Opéra de Dresde et qui y dirigea de nombreuses représentations de Seinemeyer. Beaucoup considèrent cette performance comme le début de la “Verdi Renaissance” en Allemagne.

Mais, malheureusement pour Meta, c’est aussi lors de cette représentation à Dresde de La Force du Destin que les premiers signes d’une leucémie se manifestèrent. Une revue du Berliner Tageblatt, tout en louant sa performance, a déclaré qu’elle semblait fatiguée et un de ses amis, John Hague, a également déclaré que sa maladie avait commencé en 1926.

Elle chanta cependant à l’Opéra d’État de Vienne en 1927, puis au Royal Opera House de Londres et au Théâtre des Champs-Élysées à Paris en 1929.  Outre Elisabeth et Eva, elle chanta aussi Elsa (Lohengrin) et Sieglinde (Die Walküre), et joue un rôle considérable dans la renaissance de Verdi en Allemagne dans les années 1920, notamment en Leonora ( La forza del destino), Elisabath de Valois (Don Carlos), le rôle-titre dans Aida, Desdemone (Otello). Son répertoire comprenait aussi La Comtesse des Noces de Figaro, Marguerite (Faust), Mimi (La Bohème), les rôles-titres de Tosca et de Madame Butterfly. Le critique de la Neue freie Presse fut plutôt négatif car son interprétation de Tosca ne correspondait pas, selon lui, à la norme établie par sa Tosca idéale, Maria Jeritza. Elle parut nerveuse, et sa voix s’est fatiguée lors du dernier acte. Mais malgré cela, le critique a fondamentalement aimé la voix elle-même, et il semble que le public l’aimait aussi, même s’ils ont davantage applaudi le ténor, Alfred Piccaver, qui était l’un de leurs grands favoris.

En 1928, Elle tint le rôle-titre dans une nouvelle production de Manon Lescaut de Puccini à l’Opéra de Dresde, avec Max Hirzel (Des Grieux) et Robert Burg (Lescaut), puis le rôle de la comtesse des Noces de Figaro à La Haye, avec Ludwig Ermold (Figaro) et Lotte Schöne (Susanna) et encore le rôle de Margiana dans Der Barbier von Bagdad de Peter Cornelius à Dresde.

En 1929, elle fut Lisa dans une nouvelle production de La dame de Pique de Tchaikovsky à Dresde; c’était son dernier nouveau rôle. Elle devait chanter comme Teresa dans la production de Benvenuto Cellini de Berlioz en juin, mais elle était trop malade pour chanter; Angela Kolniak a dû la remplacer. Le 24 avril de cette même année, toujours malade, elle fit son dernier enregistrement publié de Sieglinde (Die Walküre), avec le ténor Curt Taucher. Seinemeyer, perfectionniste qu’elle était, n’était pas satisfaite de la façon dont elle chantait; elle avait prévu de refaire l’enregistrement après son retour de Londres. Mais lorsqu’elle est revenue, elle était trop malade pour retravailler l’enregistrement. Elle a gardé sa maladie secrète, connue seulement de sa famille et de ses amis proches. Aucun des critiques ne savait qu’elle était malade. Lors de son dernier passage à Londres où elle devait donner cinq représentations à Covent Garden en Sieglinde, Eva et Elsa, ces rôles durent être partagés avec Lotte Lehmann. Elle attrapa une grippe dont elle n’arriva pas à se remettre en raison de sa leucémie. Elle partit en Suisse et à Bad Kissingen pour un traitement, sans résultat.

La tombe de Meta Seinemeyer
au Stahnsdorfer Friedhof de Berlin

Étonnamment, compte tenu du stade avancé de sa maladie, elle chanta la Maréchale dans une représentation de Der Rosenkavalier à Dresde le 9 juin 1929. Quatorze jours avant sa mort, elle fut amenée à l’hôpital Johannstädter de Dresde, de Bad Kissingen, dans une voiture spéciale et le 19 août, elle recevait une transfusion sanguine, avec du sang qu’un de ses amis avait donné. Mais la transfusion n’eut pas d’effet, et elle décéda ce soir-là, entre 19h30 et 20h. Elle avait 33 ans.

Quelques heures avant sa mort, elle s’était mariée au chef d’orchestre Frieder Weissmann (1893-1984), sur son lit d’hôpital. Elle a été enterrée au Stahnsdorfer Friedhof à Berlin.

Son répertoire comprenait au moins 51 rôles dans 46 opéras, ce qui est beaucoup si l’on considère que sa carrière n’a duré que 11 ans. Elle a également réalisé plus de 100 enregistrements, dans lesquels sa voix incroyable peut être entendue aujourd’hui. Pour le célèbre chef d’orchestre Fritz Busch: «Meta Seinemeyer, dont la mort prématurée a été très regrettée, n’était pas seulement une superbe Leonora, elle excellait dans tous les rôles nécessitant une capacité émotionnelle, lyrique-dramatique. Dans Andrea Chénier , elle était une Madeleine des plus poignantes. Bien que la finition technique de sa voix, qui ressemblait si étroitement à celle d’Elisabeth Rethberg, ne soit pas l’égale de cette dernière, elle avait néanmoins un impact émotionnel incomparable; en fait c’était une véritable voix de larme». Aucune inscription de pierre tombale ne pouvait être plus appropriée que les derniers mots de la traduction allemande de La Forza del Destino: “Die Seele lebt” – l’âme continue de vivre.” Pour le compositeur Umberto Giordano,  après avoir vu Seinemeyer dans le rôle de Maddalena (Andrea Chénier):  «Dans toute l’Italie, il n’y a pas de voix de femme aussi glorieuse que celle de Seinemeyer» 

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