(19 October 1900 – 14 June 1990)
Erna Berger was a German coloratura lyric soprano possessing a lyrical voice of effortless flexibility and great beauty.
She was one of those singers whose career was greatly affected by the wars.
Although born in Germany she lived for some time in India and South America.
Erna Berger was greatly respected by conductors Wilhelm Furtwängler and Arturo Toscanini.
She was one in a group of German sopranos that included Elisabeth Rethberg,Elisabeth Grümmer,Lotte Lehmann, Martha Mödl and Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf whose careers started pre WW1 and continued in the years following WW11.
Returning to her native Germany when she was 26 she started as a soubrette soprano at the Semper Opera in Dresden but later moved to the Vienna State Opera, the Berlin State Opera and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin.
Thereafter she appeared at the Metropolitan during the 1949/50 seasons in Der Rosenkavalier with Eleanor Steber and Rise Stevens and she also played in Rigoletto with Leonard Warren. She also performed in Die Zauberflote, Il Barbiere di Siviglia and in Der Ring des Nibelungen with Kirsten Flagstad and Helen Traubel alternating in the role of Brunnhilde.
Although becoming famous for her Queen of the Night and her Konstanze it is for her contributions to historic recordings which have ensured that her name and her art can still be seen and heard today.
She appears in a complete recording of Rigoletto with Jan Peerce and Leonard Warren in 1950 which was the first complete opera set recorded and released on LP records by RCA Victor, that secured her place in the history of opera.
She also played Zerlina in the filmed Salzburg 1956 recording of Don Giovanni with Cesare Siepi as the Don and Lisa Della Casa as Donna Elvira and Elizabeth Grummer as Donna Anna.
She left the opera stage at aged sixty to take up a teaching post in Hamburg, then Essen where she died in 1990 and was buried in Vienna.