Scheff, Fritzi


Young Austrian singer, of pleasing personality, possessed of a light, high soprano. She is an unique figure on the American lyrical stage, and has made a distinct mark in both grand and comic opera. She was born in Vienna, and is the daughter of Hortense Scheff Yager, formerly prima donna in Wagnerian roles at the Imperial Opera, Vienna, and of Dr. Yager, a physician and scientist, of Vienna. Her mother is still singing as a member of the Opera at Frankfort. Her real name was Fredericka Scheff. When she was five she sang in a church choir at Vienna. At eight she was spoken of as a prodigy. Fraulein Scheff studied music under the best masters in Dresden and Frankfort, and made her operatic debut at the Court Theatre at Frankfort when very young as Juliet in Gounod's opera. She then appeared in Faust, Cavalleria Rusticana, La Boheme and Mignon, and after two years at Frankfort went to the Royal Opera at Munich, where Maurice Grau heard her sing and invited her to become a member of his Metropolitan Opera Company. She signed a three years' contract and came to America, appearing for the first time in this country in 1900 as Marzelline in Beethoven's Fidelio. She was received with much warmth, not only for her pure, high soprano of birdlike brilliancy but because of her youthful vivacity and piquant beauty of face and form. She became immediately one of the most popular members of the Metropolitan Opera Company that season, singing many roles, among them that of one of the Rhine Maidens in Das Rheingold and Gotterdammerung, a Valkyrie in Die Walküre, the unseen forest-bird in Siegfried, Musetta in La Boheme, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Nedda in Pagliacci, and others. It was Paderewski, who nicknamed her about this time, "the little deviling of grand opera." She returned to Europe and went to England, appearing at Covent Garden, London, with great success. She also sang at Windsor Castle by command of the late Queen Victoria, who presented the young singer with a diamond and turquoise bracelet. The following year, 1901, she was married to Fritz von Bardeleben, a captain of the German Hussars, who left his regiment to accompany her to America. That season she added Papagena in The Magic Flute and Asa in Paderewski's Manru to her repertory. Charles B. Dillingham, the American manager, after hearing Mme. Scheff sing at Covent Garden in London, made her an offer to go into comic opera. She accepted and in 1903 made her debut in light opera in Victor Herbert's Babette. Next she sang in The Two Roses, an operatic version of Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer, and this not being the success that was hoped for it the singer finished out her season in New York with Girofle-Girofla, Boccaccio and Fatinitza, and other revivals of old comic opera successes. In 1905 Mme. Scheff sang for the first time the role of Fifi in Mile. Modiste, a light opera of exceptional charm and worth, by Victor Herbert, which proved to be the t most successful of anything in which she had previously appeared. The singer's predominating trait is her vivacity, and innumerable adjectives have been applied to her in praise of her melodious, well-trained voice, her perfect figure, her piquancy and inexhaustible good humor. There is no other singer on the $ American stage today who ranks with her in the field of comic opera.