The singing of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf embodied aristocratic charm and finely nuanced artistry allied with an unmistakable lyric soprano timbre. From an early broad repertoire that included Italian roles, she came to concentrate on a small core of operatic parts, giving performances in works by Mozart and Strauss that were considered definitive. She devoted herself equally to lieder, focusing particularly on the songs of Hugo Wolf, where her perfectionism and attention to detail paid huge dividends. A prolific recording artist, in collaboration with her husband Walter Legge, she left behind a legacy of matchless recorded performances, many of them under the baton of Herbert von Karajan.
1934: Accepted at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik; studies briefly with Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, then coloratura soprano and lieder singing with Maria Ivogün and Michael Raucheisen, a lieder accompanist.
1938–42: Progresses to leading roles at the Städtische Oper Berlin, starting as a flower maiden in Parsifal.
1942: Successful début lieder recital in Berlin.
1944: Joins the ensemble of the Wiener Staatsoper.
1947–64: Appears nearly every year at the Salzburg Festival and at La Scala, and, from 1955, at the San Francisco Opera.
1951: Sings the role of Anne Trulove in the première of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Venice.
1953: Marries the influential classical record producer Walter Legge.
1963: Début at the Metropolitan Opera, New York.
1965–66: Recording of Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore, destined to remain a classic.
1972: Retires from the stage.
1975: Farewell lieder recital tour in the USA; thereafter only occasional recitals in Europe.
1976: Gives a masterclass at the Juilliard School, New York, one of her many teaching activities.
1986: Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
1992: Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.