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Elisabeth SCHWARZKOPF: A Self Portrait
A film by Gérald Caillat. Concept: André Tubin and Gérald Caillat
Editor: Toby Trotter
PAL System 4:3 B&W/Colour No Region code
Subtitles: English/Deutsch/Français/Espagnol
Menu Languages: English/Français/Deutsch
Insert: essay by J.B. Steane
EMI CLASSICS 7243 4 92852 9 3


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This is a very affectionate film that flatters as well as informs. In all cases it is Madame who is speaking. Any talking-heads opinions by others are given in her presence. The production values are excellent. With film clips from such a wide variety of sources, some very old, including video, the producers have done a superb job of matching everything up, sound as well as visual. Although nothing actually appears digitally restored, the quality of the old films is uniformly clear and garbage free; only a couple of scenes have a scratch or two. Obviously in so short a film complete musical selections are not possible, but there has been an attempt made to break in and out at the phrase. There are only two brief voice-overs (my pet peeve) and even I didn’t object to them.

The early years in Germany are in black and white, but as soon as she arrives in England most everything is in colour from then on. Those who would hope for a searching, even challenging, discussion of her early contact with Nazis will be disappointed. She affirms that her parents kept her completely isolated from "politics" and sent her from the room when they were discussed. ("People won’t believe we could live such protected lives.") And she asserts sensibly enough that when one has the voice one must sing; one cannot wait ten years. And sing she does! We see her in brief excerpts from many opera roles and films, some recording sessions, rehearsals, concerts, an American TV broadcast ("There were people protesting that a German was singing, but we made our point for art, for German art!") and some master class sessions ("You should have grown up speaking the German language."). She and hubby Walter Legge almost get into a quarrel as they relate slightly differing accounts of how and when they met. We see quick cameos of famous people arriving and departing, and lengthy comments from pianist Gerald Moore ("Gerald was marvellous, but he learned it all from Walter [Legge]!)

Madame speaks mostly English but I found it helpful to have the subtitles on when she or someone else slips into French or German.

The liner note essay is printed in blurry thin light blue type against dark blue and is all but unreadable—terribly chic and all that, but how about some consideration for older eyes?

I won’t label this a "warning" as I’m sick of those, but this disk will not play on some DVD players which demand a region code. At our house the score was about half and half. But it played beautifully on my Apex player right through my NTSC television.

Paul Shoemaker

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