Grümmer, Elisabeth

German soprano, 1911 - 1986


Biographical notes:

She was born in Lorraine (Niederjeutz, later Yutz-Basse) as the child of German parents. In 1918 the family was evicted from Lorraine and moved to the theatre town of Meiningen. She attended the drama school and appeared in the school’s scenic performances in classical roles like Klärchen in Goethe’s Egmont.  All her artistic goals seemed to come to an end when she married the violinist Detlev Grümmer (a concert-master at the Landestheater Meiningen) and eventually became a mother. When her husband obtained an engagement at the Stadttheater in Aachen, this represented an important change of centre for the family. The young Herbert von Karajan was General Music Director of this opera house and she was very much impressed by him. She decided to take singing lessons, among others with the renowned vocal coach Franziska Martienssen-Lohmann. Karajan was interested in working with her right from the beginning. He gave her the chance to appear in a Parsifal performance in 1941 as the First Flower maiden. She was engaged to Duisburg and then eventally to Prague. Her husband died tragically at a bombing attack. After war she became a regular member of the Städtische Oper Berlin. Berlin always remained the centre of her activities. She sang with greatest success in all the world’s leading operahouses, at Covent Garden, the Grand Opéra, La Scala, the Met, the Teatro Colón, and the State Operas of Munich, Vienna and Hamburg. Between 1957 and 1961 she was to be heard at the Bayreuth Festival each year. She restricted herself to a rather small repertoire she made very much her own: Pamina, Donna Anna, Ilia, the Countess Almaviva, Agathe, Hänsel, Oktavian, the Marschallin, Countess Madeleine, Eva, Elsa, Elisabeth, Gutrune, Freia and Desdemona. She made it her practise to sing everything in her own language. Her art is unforgettable on the concert platform. Her song recitals were always great artistic events as her performances of Bach’s Passions and her unsurpassed Ihr habt nur Traurigkeit in Brahms’ German Requiem. In 1965 Elisabeth Grümmer became professor at the Berlin Musikhochschule. In 1986 she was nominated an honorary member of the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. She died the same year in Warendorf (Westphalia).



Elisabeth  -  Elsa  -  Eva


Contessa  -  Donna Anna  -  Fiordiligi



with Léopold Simoneau as Don Ottavio


Recordings: (selection)


Humperdinck - Hänsel und Gretel (Karajan 1953/Schwarzkopf, Metternich, von Ilosvay, Schürhoff, Felbermayer)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Furtwängler 1953 live/Siepi, Schwarzkopf, Edelmann, Dermota, Arie, Berry, Berger)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Furtwängler 1954 live/Siepi, Schwarzkopf, Dermota, Edelmann, Berry, Berger, Ernster)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Mitropoulos 1956 live/Siepi, della Casa, Simoneau, Corena, Streich, Berry, Frick)


Mozart - Don Giovanni (Zanotelli 1960/Prey, Hillebrecht, Wunderlich, Köth, Kohn, Wiemann)


Mozart - Idomeneo (Fricsay 1961/Kmentt, Lorengar, Haefliger)


Strauss - Der Rosenkavalier - Excerpts (Schüchter 1955/Rysanek, Köth, Neidlinger, Traxel)


Tchaikovsky - The Queen of Spades (Rother 1947/Schock, Klose, Prohaska, Müller, Nissen


Wagner - Götterdämmerung (Knappertsbusch 1957 live/Varnay, Windgassen, Uhde, von Ilosvay)


Wagner - Götterdämmerung (Knappertsbusch 1958 live/Varnay, Windgassen, Wiener, Madeira)


Wagner - Lohengrin (Matacic 1959 live/Konya, Gorr, Blanc, Crass)

Golden Melodram

Wagner - Lohengrin (Kempe 1962/Thomas, Fischer-Dieskau, Ludwig, Frick, Wiener)


Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Kempe 1951/Frantz, Schock, Höffgen, Frick, Unger)


Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Cluytens 1957 live/ Neidlinger, Geisler, Greindl, Stolze, von Milinkovich)


Wagner - Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Knappertsbusch 1960 live/Greindl, Adam Schmitt-Walter, Windgassen, Stolze, Schärtel)

Golden Melodram

Wagner - Das Rheingold (Knappertsbusch 1957 live/Hotter, Suthaus, Stolze, von Milinkovic, von Ilosvay)


Wagner - Das Rheingold (Knappertsbusch 1958 live/Hotter, Uhl, Stolze, Gorr, von Ilosvay)


Wagner - Tannhäuser (Konwitschny 1966/Beirer, Schech, Frick, Fischer-Dieskau)


Weber - Der Freischütz (Furtwängler 1954 live/Hopf, Streich, Böhme, Poell, Czerwenka, Böhme)


Weber - Der Freischütz (E. Kleiber 1955/Hopf, Streich, Proebstl, Poell, Horn, Böhme)

Opera d’oro

Weber - Der Freischütz (Keilberth 1958/Schock, Otto, Prey, Kohn, Wiemann, Frick)


Opera recitals:

Recital (live recordings and broadcasts of Così fan tutte, Le Nozze di Figaro, Pique Dame, Freischütz, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and songs)


Recital (Arias by Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, Weber and Thomas)



Songs by Schubert, Brahms (G. Moore), Grieg and 3 excerpts from Otello


Songs by Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schoeck and Wolf (A. Reimann)


Strauss - Four Last Songs (Kraus 1970 live)


Elisabeth Grümmer - Berlin and Munich Concerts 1948 - 1956



Bach - St. Matthew Passion (Furtwängler 1954 live)


Bach - St. John Passion  (Forster 1962)


Brahms - German Requiem (Kempe 1955)


Haydn - Die Schöpfung (Forster 1960)


Mozart - Requiem (Kempe 1955)


Bach - Several Cantatas



Grosse Mozartsänger Vol. 2 1949 - 1960


Mike Richter’s Opera Page: The Record of Singing Vol. 4



As the Countess in “Capriccio”


Elisabeth Grümmer possessed a beautiful voice and there was an entire lack of artifice about her singing. She concentrated on a few roles (comparable to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf). The two Elisabeths had a different approach to singing and how to build a career...

Grümmer’s career, on disc at least, was less substantial than it should have been, given her gifts. However, the precious few recordings she did leave are treasurable, and, for those who did not hear her in flesh, they afford confirmation of the qualities that made her a great artist.

How to describe her voice? Here some attributes: Freshness, warmth, sweetness, aristocratic style, perfectly sustained legato line, inner emotion, seriousness achieved with utter simplicity, clear-voiced, unaffected, innocent, innate musicality, youthful girlish grace, excellent diction ...

Is there one single recording in which she does not “bear her soul?” Some of her Wagner recordings (Lohengrin, Tannhäuser) were made rather late in her career when she was already in her fifties. But she managed to retain her voice fresh and youthful until her retirement.

Freischütz, Hänsel und Gretel, Don Giovanni and the Wagner operas are integral opera recordings of reference.  She is Agathe for all time (I prefer the recording contucted by Keilberth who was a great but underrated conductor).

She is a superb Lieder singer. I especially love her in Othmar Schoeck’s songs. He composed wonderful songs and, for reasons I cannot understand, they have been barely accepted to this day. Schumann’s Frauenliebe- und Leben is truly heartfelt because she believes and trusts in Chamisso’s text! Her singing is pure inner emotion.

The most beautiful Ihr habt nur Taurigkeit  (German Requiem by Brahms) is performed by Elisabeth Grümmer (perfect singing “on the breath”).

  Crudele!...Non mi dir, bell’idol mio with Léopold Simoneau (Donna Anna in Don Giovanni / Mozart / 1956 live / Dimitri Mitropulos)

 Nachtlied (Mendelssohn / Sender Freies Berlin 1963 / Aribert Reimann)


As the Marschallin