Livia Frege, née Gerhardt (1818-1891)

The singer Livia Gerhardt was born in Gera and debuted in Leipzig in 1833. In the following year, she studied in Dresden with Wilhelmine Schröder-Devrient and in 1835 was engaged at the Royal Municipal Theatre in Berlin. In 1836, she married the lawyer and later Leipzig University professor Richard Woldemar Frege. After her marriage, she would perform in concert only occasionally. In October 1840, Clara Schumann wrote that she had listened to a performance of Livia Frege after a long time again and praised her beautiful, melodious voice. After a visit of the Freges in January 1841, she noticed that she increasingly liked them the more she came to know them.

The Schumanns were often invited to gatherings at the house of the Freges and vice versa. In 1843, Livia Frege sang the title role in Schumann’s Paradise and the Peri at the premiere in Leipzig. She took every opportunity to listen to Schumann’s compositions, and told Clara in her letters, inter alia, that she had sung herself Gretchen, Care and other solos in the Scenes from Goethe’s Faust in 1859, or she told her about the Genoveva performances in Leipzig.

Subsequently, in 1875, Clara expressly travelled to Leipzig to see the staging. Livia, in turn, especially went to Hanover in March 1863 to attend the Scenes from Goethe’s Faust under the direction of Joseph Joachim. As early as 1859, she had written to Clara after a meeting with her: “[How beautiful the feeling of an intimate and deep understanding is; believe me, I truly experience all the feelings that touch you, together with you, deep in my heart. [...] If I could only listen to you sometimes, it would be such a great joy for me ...]”. Clara Schumann was also able to inspire Livia for the works of Johannes Brahms; she would play them to her or Livia would sing the songs at sight. The Freges often accommodated Clara with great hospitality, and in 1886, she travelled to Leipzig to attend the celebration of the golden wedding of the Freges.

After Livia’s death in 1891, Clara wrote in a letter to Mrs von Holstein: “[Oh, what a big loss! With her, I have lost my oldest friend and most faithful art companion. How well we understood each other in absolutely everything and how much our views of life and art agreed! How much we shared our enthusiasm for the high arts and our disgust at the degeneration of modern times. [...]”

In her diary, she wrote: “[With Livia’s departure, everything that still linked me to Leipzig is gone; I would feel like a stranger there, more than anywhere else, precisely because I was born there and all the beautiful childhood memories go back there, and all the people of that time, they are all gone now, dead.]”

(J.M.N., translated by Th. H.)

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