Charlotte Lehmann was a German soprano who was especially associated with German repertory. She gave memorable performances in the operas of Richard Strauss. The Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier was considered her greatest role. During her long career, Lehmann also made more than five hundred recordings.
Lehmann was born in Perleberg, Germany. After studying in Berlin with Mathilde Mallinger, she made her debut at the Hamburg Opera in 1910 as a page in Wagner’s Lohengrin. In 1914, she sang for the first time at the Vienna State Opera, which she joined in 1916. There she sang the premieres of a number of operas by Richard Strauss, including Ariadne auf Naxos in 1916, Die Frau ohne Schatten in 1919, Intermezzo in 1924, and Arabella in 1933, as well as Vienna premieres of several operas by Puccini. Lehmann made her debut in London in 1914, and from 1924 to 1935 she performed regularly at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.
She also appeared regularly at the Salzburg Festival from 1926 to 1937, performing with Arturo Toscanini, among other conductors. She also gave recitals there accompanied at the piano by the conductor Bruno Walter. In 1936, while in Salzburg, she discovered the Trapp Family Singers, later made famous in the musical The Sound of Music, and persuaded them to present their first public performance.
In 1930, Lehmann made her American debut in Chicago as Sieglinde in Wagner’s Die Walküre. Lehmann’s other Wagnerian roles included Eva in Die Meistersinger, Elsa in Lohengrin, and Elisabeth in Tannhäuser. She was also famous for her interpretation of Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio. Just before Germany annexed Austria in 1938, Lehmann emigrated to the United States, where she sang at the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera until 1945.