Rose PAULY was born as Rosa Pollak in All-Ellgoth (Allodial Ellgoth) Austria-Hungary (which is now known as Zpupná Lhota in the Czech Republic)1 on March 15, 1895. She was a child of the Jewish couple Antonie Pollak neé Slattner, and Alexander Pollak.
Rose PAULY provided little information about her Jewish family and the biographical gaps that she left have not yet been completely closed.
It is nevertheless certain that Rose PAULY studied voice under her maiden name Rosa Pollak at the Vienna Academy of Music with Rosa Papier. She first appeared publicly on March 2, 1915 in the soprano role Sandmännchen, when the director of the Court Opera Franz Schalk produced the opera Hänsel und Gretel at the Academy Theater.
On January 28, 1917 Bernhard Paumgartner, the son of Rosa Pollak’s voice professor Rosa Papier, conducted a concert with the Vienna Tonkünstler Orchestra, with Rosa Pollak performing as a soloist – singing opera arias while using Rose PAULY as her stage name.
The 22-year-old graduate of the Vienna Academy of Music was engaged at the Wiesbaden Opera during the war in 1917. In the early 1920s she received engagements in Karlsruhe and Cologne on the Rhine.
Rose PAULY appeared as a guest singer from Cologne in the summer of 1922 (and not as a member of the Vienna State Opera) when she took part in the first Salzburg opera performance.
It was a guest performance by the Vienna State Opera with its orchestra under the musical direction of State Opera Director Richard Strauss. The performance, with decorations, costumes and props took place in the Salzburg City Theater (now called the Salzburg State Theater), because no Summer Festival Theater had been created at that point.
The program of the legendary 1922 Opera Festival featured only works by Mozart, who – as a universal and cosmopolitan composer and Freemason – gradually developed into the fixed musical star of the Salzburg Festival.
Richard Strauss kicked off the summer festival with Mozart’s Don Giovanni on August 14, 1922. The Vienna State Opera singer Gertrud Kappel is recorded in the annals of the Salzburg Festival as having performed the role of »Donna Anna«, but in fact she dropped out at the last minute and the 27-year-old Rose PAULY took her place after having had only three days to rehearse the soprano role which was totally new for her.
A casual report about the events in the tourist and festival city of Salzburg appeared in the Neue Wiener Journal: from the Viennese music critic Elsa Bienenfeld:
… Part of the Vienna State Opera has moved to Salzburg. There they are currently performing four operas by Mozart. Strangers, foreigners come in droves. Prices are skyrocketing. The Salzburgers grumble. Their idea of tourism is concentrated on the desire: to live off the strangers and throw them out.
On the day of the dress rehearsal, Richard Strauss drives up to the theater. He comes in from the country and arrives in a driving outfit. Immediately he takes the podium to lead the ‘Don Juan’. At the last moment a Donna Anna had to be commandeered. Frau Kämp [Barbara Kemp, Vienna State Opera] should have come; she had canceled.
Frau Kappel [Gertrud Kappel of the Vienna State Opera] had been robbed on the train; she had lost interest in performing. A very young singer from Cologne, Miss Pauly, had to be prepared on short notice, but she then sang excellently.
Neues Wiener Journal, August 17, 1922, p. 8
Rose PAULY sang the role of »Donna Anna« on August 14, 18 and 23, 1922. Without the guest singer from Cologne there would have been no festive start with Mozart’s Don Giovanni in Salzburg.
Her barely prepared for appearance under Richard Strauss was a »great risk« for her, but it worked out well because then she was invited to be a guest performer in Vienna and State Opera Director Richard Strauss became her mentor.
Rose PAULY’s first guest performance at the Vienna State Opera from January 12-27, 1923 turned out to be an enormous challenge – six major roles that had to be mastered within fourteen days under the musical direction of four conductors:
• »Salome« in the opera of that name under the direction of the composer Richard Strauss on January 12th,
• »Sieglinde« in Wagner’s Die Walküre under Clemens Krauss on January 14th,
• »Donna Anna« in Mozart’s Don Giovanni under Franz Schalk on January 16,
• »Rachel« in Jacques Fromental Halévy’s La Juive [The Jewess] under Hugo Reichenberger on January 18th,
• »Amelia« in Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera [A Masked Ball] under Hugo Reichenberger on January 23rd,
• »the Empress« in Die Frau ohne Schatten [The Woman without a Shadow] conducted by the composer Richard Strauss on January 27, 1923.
Richard Strauss had insisted that Rose PAULY sing »the Empress« at the end of her Vienna guest performance, although she only had a few days to rehearse the soprano part – an extreme risk since it was the star role of Maria Jeritza, who was considered »Prima donna assoluta« in the Vienna Opera house.
Even if the success of the guest singer from Cologne did not come close to that of the Vienna Opera house prima donna, the demanding music critic Max Graf liked Rose PAULY as »the Empress«:
… As the Empress, Rose Pauly let her voice shine; it was the best performance that the guest with the soft, sensual soprano offered in Vienna.
Der Tag, January 30, 1923, p. 6
Richard Strauss, »artistic director« of the Vienna State Opera from 1919 to 1924, had tried to get Rose PAULY to work for his opera house. But she remained tied to Cologne for several years, both professionally and personally. She was married there to a German citizen and was a member of the Protestant Church.
After her divorce, she continued to use the stage name Rose PAULY-DREESEN.
In 1929 the Vienna State Opera succeeded in engaging the singer, who was now at the Berlin State Opera, as a dramatic soprano. As the new State Opera Director, Clemens Krauss was more open to opera novelties than his predecessors. And so Rose PAULY now also sang roles in modern operas staged by Lothar WALLERSTEIN: »Marie« in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck and »Agave« in Egon Wellesz’ Die Bakchantinnen.
It is also noteworthy that Rose PAULY had a daughter: Margit (Margaret), born on April 8, 1931 in Vienna and it was said raised backstage. In any case, her mother was back on stage at the end of April 1931.
Rose PAULY’s legal name had been Haggag since March 1933. But her marriage to the Egyptian Dr. Hafis Haggag, a doctor working in Berlin, did not last long.
Richard Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten opera (Libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal) was on the program of the Vienna State Opera for June 1, 1933 again, but with a different line-up: Rose PAULY as »the Dyer’s Wife« instead of Lotte LEHMANN, who had sung this role in the 1932 Summer Festival.
The new line-up with Rose PAULY was evaluated by the Vienna music critic Max Graf without using the ugly word »substitute«:
… The Dyer’s Wife was sung by Mrs. Pauly for the first time.
She is excellent in this role, a realistic actress with a fine temperament and a sensual voice who gives the finale of the second act a strong accent …
Mg., Der Wiener Tag, June 3, 1933, p. 8
It was therefore hardly surprising that Rose PAULY sang the role of »the Dyer’s Wife« instead of Lotte LEHMANN in the summer of 1933: in a one-time performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten in the presence of the composer Richard Strauss on August 22nd.
Lotte LEHMANN’S brilliant performance in the festival summer of 1932 was remembered fondly, so Rose PAULY, who was still unknown in Salzburg, did not have an easy time of it in August 1933.
But her performance was approved by the local music critic with the signature »F. K.« (Franz Krotsch), though he seemed unaware that she was working at the Vienna State Opera:
… This year’s performance resembles that wonderful first performance in almost every detail and brings only one, albeit very substantial, change, which is that the dyer’s wife is no longer portrayed by Lotte Lehmann, but by Rose Pauly (Dresden). But fortunately, that doesn’t diminish the festive impression in any way, because Rose Pauly is also completely up to the enormous demands of the major part.
Her voice sounds pure and full, even if perhaps not as heroic as the splendid soprano Lotte Lehmann, her conception reveals deep, passionate feelings despite her restrained expression, her beautiful stage appearance emanates a peculiar charm. If, in view of this extraordinary performance, one can still speak of a substitute at all, then one must at least emphasize with great emphasis that this substitute can be called fully developed …
F. K., Salzburger Volksblatt, August 23, 1933, p. 5f
Despite the »thousand-mark ban« imposed on Austria by Nazi Germany, ten operas, three of them by Richard Strauss, were able to be performed as part of the program in Salzburg in the summer of 1933 [under the rule of Austria’s authoritarian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss] – moreover, they were performed in a clear and explicit contrast to the racist cultural policy being imposed in Germany.
What is largely unknown is that as President of the Reichsmusikkammer in Berlin, Richard Strauss campaigned for the »non-Aryan« singer Rose PAULY. As a result she was allowed to appear for a last time as Elektra at the Berlin State Opera on February 14, 1934 – much to the displeasure of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels.
Elektra is one of the most frequently performed »women’s operas« by Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal. At the Vienna State Opera Elektra could be rehearsed under the conductor Clemens Krauss, and on March 3, 1932 it was performed with Rose PAULY in the title role for the first time.
As a critic, even the composer Joseph Marx found words of admiration for the singer:
… Ms. Pauly in the title role played the main role, which is one of the most difficult but also the most rewarding of modern opera literature.
Only a few are likely to have thought seriously about what it means to be on stage for almost two hours without a break, without leaving (!), always being there and becoming different, in order not to flatten the dramatic effect, always on the ready after the most difficult missions, threatened by the thousand accidents that can happen – and others still happen!
Mrs. Pauly endured the endurance test with great talent; her Elektra has a dramatic natural effect, vocally impressive through the certainty of her musicality …
Neues Wiener Journal, March 5, 1932, p. 11
Two years after the new production in Vienna, Elektra was on the program of the Salzburg Festival for the first time. An opera cycle was planned to mark Richard Strauss’ 70th birthday. The jubilee was also supposed to open the festival with Beethoven’s Fidelio on July 28, 1934.
It turned out differently than planned, because Austria’s Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss was murdered in the Natzi’s July coup and the funeral took place in Vienna on July 28, 1934.
The next day, however, the Salzburg Festival opened with Fidelio under the conductor Clemens Krauss and initiated with the funeral march from Beethoven’s Eroica.
As expected, Richard Strauss was present on August 17, 1934 at the one performance of his Elektra, with his favorite singer Rose PAULY in the title role, but only privately – not as a conductor and certainly not as the president of Nazi Germany’s Reichsmusikkammer :
Frau Rose Pauly was able to offer a truly demonic Elektra, believable in every ecstasy. Highlights of her portrayal: the duel with Clytemnestra, the recruiting of Chrysothemis, the recognition of Orestes; and a state bordering on exhaustion at the moment when her vengeance is fulfilled. Vocally: a fanatical loyalty to the tones, a clarity of pronunciation that is probably unparalleled.
The unprecedented special applause that the artist was allowed to receive – apparently on the verge of her strength – should also be recorded here with admiration.…
R. A., Salzburger Volksblatt, August 18, 1934, p. 7f.
In the 1934 Summer Festival three »women’s operas« by Richard Strauss were performed, one less than planned: the Frau ohne Schatten with Rose PAULY as the »dyer’s wife« had to be canceled.
In the summer of 1935 only one Strauss opera was performed: Der Rosenkavalier under the conductor Josef Krips instead of Clemens Krauss, who had moved to Berlin, the capital of the German Third Reich. In the summer of 1936, this most frequently performed repertory opera was no longer on the program. It seems that Richard Strauss had become a persona non grata in the festival city.
In the politically turbulent years, Rose PAULY commuted between Vienna and Prague (Praha). Anyone wishing to see a novelty opera with Rose PAULY had to visit the New German Theater in Prague. In December 1934 there was a production of the opera Der Kreidekreis by Alexander Zemlinsky with Rose PAULY as »Yü-Pei«.
In February 1935 Erich KLEIBER was still supposed to be the conductor of Elektra in that summer’s festival, but the Strauss Opera was removed from the program in May 1935.
It was not rehearsed again until September 1936 when the Vienna State Opera took it up under its senior director Lothar WALLERSTEIN and the conductor Hans Knappertsbusch, who had fallen out of favor in Germany – again with Rose PAULY as »Elektra« and for the first time with Rosette ANDAY as Klytämnestra:
… Rose Pauly, the best Elektra actress in Europe, has returned to the expensive hall [Vienna State Opera], where we have been so sad to miss her for a long time. She was vocally and dramatically more exciting than ever. […] Frau Anday sang Clytemnestra for the first time, noble even in its most absurd outbursts..
Gerechtigkeit, October 8, 1936, p. 12
Rose PAULY, celebrated as the best Elektra actress, went on tour in March 1937 and sang Elektra in a Carnegie Hall concert performance of the New York Philharmonic under Artur Rodzinski.
A report that Rose PAULY would sing again in New York in the summer and that she had canceled her participation in the Salzburg Festival which was spread in April 1937, turned out to be false.
The opera Elektra premiered on August 8, 1937 in the Festival House:
… A performance whose grandeur was in no way inferior to that of 1934, which on the contrary would be worth keeping permanently in the repertoire of Salzburg …
This can be done with certain success as long as artists like Rose Pauly can be won over to the cause. However, as was explained by very authoritative sources not long ago, there is hardly any other performer who is her equal for this insanely, difficult title role, which exploits the singer’s strength to the point of complete exhaustion. One must have seen this woman at the end of the almost two-hour performance to understand what excessive power of performance is demanded and given here. …
A., Salzburger Volksblatt, August 9, 1937, p. 4f.
Elektra was performed again on August 22nd in the Festival House,once more with Rose PAULY as Elektra, Rosette ANDAY as Klytämnestra, Margit BOKOR as Matron and Bella PAALEN as First maid.
This was followed by three performances of Elektra at the Vienna State Opera, the last on December 4, 1937:
… Rose Pauly as Elektra had another glamorous evening; her sensual voice, which is now free of all brittleness, is one of the most valuable female voices of today.
Gerechtigkeit, December 10, 1937, p. 11
When Rose PAULY-HAGGAG, née Pollak, duly de-registered in Vienna to move to Prague, her marriage to the doctor Dr. Hafez Haggag had already ended in divorce. Her new partner Dr. Josef Fleischner, also a doctor, was Jewish and their joint address was at 9 Washingtonova, Prague 1, near the New German Theater (now the Prague State Opera).
At the end of December 1937 Rose PAULY traveled to New York to take part in five performances of the opera Elektra at the Metropolitan Opera (known as the Met) which had its German-language repertoire led by its chief conductor Artur Bodanzky.
On January 7, 1938, Rose PAULY made her debut as »Elektra« at the Met. On March 5, 1938, she sang her part for the first time under the direction of Erich LEINSDORF, who had been promoted to second conductor of the German-speaking repertoire at the Met.
Herbert GRAF, also a Jew from Austria, was responsible for staging this Elektra.
In distant Vienna a few days before Austria was »annexed« to the German Reich one could read:
Elektra – the greatest success at the Metropolitan in 25 years.
Neues Wiener Tagblatt, March 1, 1938, p. 24
In the spring of 1938 Rose PAULY made guests appearance in Europe again, albeit not in Austria under German rule, but in London as Elektra at the Covent Garden Opera and in Fascist Italy as The dyer’s wife (La moglie) in Die Frau ohne Schatten (La donna senz’ombra) at the Teatro dell’opera di Roma.
At the end of August 1938, Rose PAULY left Europe forever, not alone, but with her seven-year-old daughter Margit: they arrived in New York on the Italian Atlantic liner Rex on September 8, 1938.
On December 6th of this year, Rose PAULY signed her Declaration of Intention to become a US citizen in New York. It contains the following data:
Rosa Haggag, also known as Rosa Pauly; born on March 15, 1895 in Ellgoth, Czechoslovakia; race »Hebrew«; divorced; one child; current address: 118 East 40th St, New York.
Rose PAULY and her partner Dr. Josef Fleischner married in the US after his arrival in New York in February 1939.
In 1939/40 Rose PAULY made five more appearances at the Metropolitan Opera: three as »Elektra« and one each as »Venus« in Tannhäuser and as »Ortrud« in Lohengrin under Erich LEINSDORF.
From August to October 1939 Rose PAULY made her first guest appearance at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires: four appearances as Elektra and five as Mariscala (Field Marshal) in Der Rosenkavalier under the musical direction of Erich KLEIBER.
Rose PAULY was a guest singer again in 1942 and for the last time in 1943 from August to October at the Teatro Colón: in 1943 she sang Gutrune four times in Wagner’s Götterdämmerung under the conductor Roberto Kinsky and three times as »Elektra« under Erich KLEIBER. Her performance as Elektra on October 1, 1943 was her last stage role.
It is often said that Rose PAULY ended her stage career in 1942 as a result of a serious fall, but that doesn’t seem to be right.
In any case there is no doubt that Rose PAULY, her daughter Margit and her husband Josef Fleischner emigrated to the British mandate of Palestine (soon to be independent as Israel) around 1946. Rose PAULY worked there as a singing teacher.
Rose PAULY died at age 80 in Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel (near Tel Aviv) on December 14, 1975.
Except for this Stumbling Block her name does not appear in any of the public spaces where she used to work in Austria.
1 According to the Vienna population register and the US Declaration of Intention: Rosa Pollak, born on March 15, 1895 in All-Ellgoth, then Austria-Hungary (now Zpupná Lhota in the Czech Republic); according to another version: born on March 14 or 15, 1894 in Eperjes (Presov), Hungary (Slovakia).
- Vienna City and State archives
- Salzburg Festival archives
- Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit (Universität Hamburg)
- ANNO: Austrian Newspapers Online
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 17.08.2020 at Salzburg, Max-Reinhardt-Platz