Personalities | Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient | Early Romantic | Opera

1804–60, German

Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient was born into ‘show business’. Her father was Friedrich Schröder (1744–1816), the first German Don Giovanni in Mozart’s opera of that name, and her mother was the ‘Mrs Siddons of Germany’, the actress Sophie Bürger (1781–1868). Wilhelmine was a child actress and ballet dancer before making her debut at the Kärnterthortheater in Vienna as Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte in 1821. She sang in Dresden for 25 years (1822–47), with excursions to Berlin (1828), Paris (1831–32), and the London Haymarket in 1832–33 and 1837. She retired in 1847. Schröder-Devrient was a highly emotional singer and actress who became known as the ‘Queen of Tears’ for weeping on stage while performing the many powerful and tragic parts in her repertoire. She sang Bellini’s Norma, Valentine in Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, and, in what was termed the greatest interpretation of the role, Leonore in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

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