Audience with Madame Schumann Heink

Renowned Austrian-American contralto Ernestine Schumann Heink (1861–1936) had a 57-year career, singing everything from Wagner to ‘Danny Boy’; initially in Europe, later in the US, where she lived from 1903. Her personal life included three husbands and eight children – during WW1 she had sons fighting on both sides. Set in 1930, the show follows ‘An Audience With’ format and is based on the many stories told by, and about, this archetypal operatic fat lady with the irrepressible personality. Devised by Anna Hillis, who entertains with anecdotes, songs and arias ‘fantastic singer’ (Stage).

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Play description

A one-woman play about the life of opera singer Ernestine Schumann Heink (1861–1936), regarded as having one of the greatest contralto voices of all time; she was also a natural comedian and larger-than-life personality. The play follows the general “An Audience With” format, and is based on the many stories told by, and about, Schumann Heink. The narrative is interspersed with some of the arias and songs most associated with her.

It was initially performed, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2010, by the author – Scottish singer, actor, musician and writer Anna Hillis.


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