JOSEPH SCHMIDT: A Star Falls  (part 2)

On the 30th of January 1933 Hitler became Reichskanzler in a coalition government with extreme nationalists and conservatives. Mainly thanks to the only other Nazi in the government, Hermann Goering, the Nazis everywhere took over police and started executing their not so hidden agenda. Less than a month later Joseph Schmidt was barred from entering the radio studios of Sender Berlin. His services were no longer necessary. Maybe it suited him well at the time as apart from singing operas as a member of the more or less regular radio company, he had a contract for permanent recording with Parlophone while February and March were devoted to filming. For the first time in his movie career he would be the undoubted star. The director was Richard Oswald (in reality Richard Ornstein, a Viennese Jew) well-known for his prolific though not very original or talented output of movies in a very short time and within budget. The other important people for the movie were composer Hans May (in reality Johannes Mayer, another Viennese Jew) who had already composed many film scores and who had collaborated earlier with Oswald and  screen writer-lyricist Ernst Neubach (the third Viennese Jew). The movie company wanted to bank on Schmidt’s popularity but the problem was the story. What to do with Schmidt ? Ernst Neubach came with a solution. Schmidt would partly play his own life: a small dwarfish youngster who couldn’t get an engagement due to his size. Schmidt balked at the role and Oswald had to convince him in long and difficult talks till the singer accepted. The movie company was U(niversal)F(ilm)A(ktiengesellschaft) or UFA; at the time owned by extreme nationalist Alfred Hugenberg; ally of Hitler and minister in the Hitler government (until he was ousted 6 months later). The shooting was barely over when Hugenberg fired all his many Jewish collaborators; long before legal measures were taken to exclude Jews. The movie team had originally decided to name their movie “Der Sänger des Volkes (the people’s singer)” but they soon got a wink that they themselves and especially their star didn’t really belong to the people anymore. Therefore they renamed the movie “Ein Lied geht um die Welt (A Song Goes Around the World)” which was derived from the title song. The movie went into première on the 9th of May 1933 and the guest of honour was the recently named Reichspropagandaminister Joseph Goebbels. The star of the movie therefore stayed at home but appeared after a phone call had demanded his presence. Afterwards both important men succeeded in avoiding each other during the reception. After the war Ernst Neubach told utter nonsense stories on this première. One may never forget this is the gentleman who in 1958 produced a movie “The Joseph Schmidt Story”. Anyone who had to sit through this experience which makes Lanza’s The Great Caruso a monument of historical accuracy knows what Neubach’s idiocies are worth. The problem is that even not so bad a biographer as Swiss Alfred Fassbind repeats Neubach’s fables. According to Neubach (who was seated according to himself in the loggia next to Goebbels; no way that gentleman would have tolerated a Jew in his vicinity) the Nazi was full of enthusiasm. And according to Neubach he would later offer Schmidt 80.000 Reichsmark pro month if he would consent to continue his career on German radio. Goebbels would even make Schmidt an honorary ‘Arier’. A pity there is historical reality, not coloured by Neubach. Schmidt was already fired at the radio station and had no chance of ever coming back. Goebbels wouldn’t have dreamt of turning a full Jew (especially one who had been a cantor in Berlin) into an Arian. Moreover, the party press which was controlled by Goebbels launched a vitriolic attack upon the tenor after the première. Why was Goebbels at the première ? Maybe he wanted to show the tolerance of the regime towards it own so called enemies or he liked the voice and knew that there would be few other occasions to enjoy it. Goering (boss of the National Opera in Berlin) in contrast with Goebbels (boss of the Berlin City Opera) tolerated a few Jews in his theatre for several years more as he knew too well nobody could really replace singers like Kipnis. He said “I’ll decide who is Jewish” but even the second man of the regime couldn’t hang on to Jewish singers who for understandable reasons wanted to leave Germany anyhow. “Ein Lied geht um die Welt” was a resounding success in Germany for a long time.  It took Goebbels another 4 years to  nationalize the German movie industry so that almost total control was possible of the most popular out of home entertainment. But the movie theatres themselves remained in private hands and therefore could show what they thought to be the most profitable movies. Therefore “Ein Lied” remained in circulation until the end of 1937 when it was forbidden to be  shown anymore. Later Schmidt-movies, all produced in Austria, couldn’t be shown for two reasons: the Jewish team which produced them and the restrictions (already existing during the Weimar Republic) on importing foreign movies as fees had to be paid with scarce hard currency.

“Ein Lied” is typical for all Schmidt’s movies: a silly story that has too allow the tenor to burst into song. The music in these movies follows a fixed though somewhat strange pattern. There is one and only one operatic aria, always a sure-fire selection. Producers and director were probably afraid that more  opera would be considered too difficult or too boring. There are always two and sometimes more canzone Italiane, some of them Neapolitan. Strangely enough, with the exception of ‘Santa Lucia’ they do not belong to the most popular examples of the genre but are often far less known songs (‘Voga voga’ or ‘Mal d’amore’ and Schmidt’s fabulous version of ‘Mandolinate a Napule’) The songs are however extremely well-chosen and expose the bittersweet timbre, the ringing top notes, the formidable trill and the coloratura facility at its best. And last but not least there are two or three new German songs, composed by Hans May upon texts by Ernst Neubach. May wrote all Schmidt’s film hits and he tailored them to the tenor’s voice in an almost unsurpassed way; with deep insight into Schmidt’s capabilities: his sense of rhythm, his lightness of touch and his wonderful high C’s and even high D’s. Moreover May wrote real catchy tunes in the classic a-b-a mould and he proved that he was as fine a melodist as Lehar for Tauber and that other Jewish refugee, Nicholas Brodzky for Mario Lanza. Some of Schmidt’s songs may be sentimental but lyricist Neubach knew how to write lyrics with the right kind of accents. Some of May’s compositions show genius: “Ein Lied” itself; “Ein Stern fällt vom Himmel” and especially “Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben”; an uninterrupted cry of joy. There have been some trials by other tenors to sing Schmidt’s tunes but only Wunderlich in the easiest song of them all (‘Ein Lied’) came somewhat near the mark. Gedda failed honourably in “Ein Stern” and all tenors have marvelled at Schmidt’s “Heut ist der schönste Tag” . No real top tenor has ever dared to compete with the creator (“too difficult, too infectious singing, too high-lying a tessitura). Rudolf Schock tried and failed miserably.

It is a pleasure to see and hear the tenor, sometimes playing the piano himself. But all movies suffer from the producer’s and director’s fear of music. Having plunged into deep seas while starring a tiny tenor, they shy away from the consequences. They are clearly mortally afraid the public will run away if the camera focuses on the singer for more than thirty seconds. The spectator nowadays can only smile at the silly story and is interested in the singer and becomes often frustrated when the music fades because the director inserts one or another ‘divertimento’ during an aria so that the music-hater will stay in his seat. Schmidt is only one of the many victims of European directors who by tradition thought of themselves as artists too who couldn’t leave good things good. During a Gigli duo in one of his movies a murder was committed. Giacomo Lauri-Volpi had to suffer the indignity of a few idiots clowning around during his magnificent rendition of Mascagni’s “Canzone del sole”. Only Kiepura escaped this fate . He firmly demanded that the camera should rest fixed on him while he sang. Much maligned Hollywood directly understood that there is a public for a singer’s movie and that the camera might use another angle, might pan or stay fixed but they knew that the reason of being of this kind of movie is the singer or singers and that their names would sell tickets. Jeanette McDonald, Nelson Eddy, Lawrence Tibbett, Mario Lanza and even Luciano Pavarotti in his Georgio-movie were all clearly filmed at their best when singing. Hollywood directors of course were good crafts men and that’s why they were artists. European directors knew better and produced most of the time hopelessly dated and pretentious humbug, only showing that a lot of them didn’t even know their profession.

‘Ein Lied’ changed Schmidt’s life and career forever. He was until then a popular tenor with both feet firmly planted in opera. In a very short time he became a European idol, especially in non-Mediterranean Europe. All at once he was one of the Three Tenors: the three giants whose fame, appeal and vocal qualities eclipsed al other operatic tenors in popular opinion. Music critics might carp or write one disdainful review after another but that was of no use. Screen heroes were regarded as gods. The three tenors had something in common. They were born before the first World War and they belonged to an older Central Europe where German language and culture ruled supreme. They all had Jewish roots. Polish Jan Kiepura was discreet about it. Later he would marry the popular movie and operetta soprano Martha Eggerth (a Hungarian Jewess, still alive at 96). The Nazis at first thought Kiepura to be a Polish Slav but when he too left for the US and took with him a Jewish secretary (Marcel Prawy) they started their research. When the German army conquered Poland in 1939 they finally found proof. The second tenor was Richard Tauber. According to Jewish law he wasn’t even a Jew but for the Nazis he was a “Mischling” (his father and not his mother was Jewish) and he discovered at his costs during a visit to Germany that  Nazis didn’t follow traditional Jewish ancestry laws. Kiepura was the real thing; a star of the Vienna Opera and La Scala who would reach the Met. Tauber , however meltingly beautifully he sang Mozart, was of Central Europe fame only until operettas and films made his name a household word. Schmidt had less voice than Kiepura, less musicality than Tauber but his glorious top notes and somewhat veiled voice had its own peculiar charm.

After his first big movie, Schmidt was in a quandary. Invitations from all over Europe promising high fees were coming in, to the delight of uncle Leo but he was no longer welcome in his own artistic and real home. After the Nazis came into power he was still  allowed to record in Berlin until May 1933, though not to sing in public but then it was ‘Schluss damit’. He recorded 16 titles, half of them operatic. For the first time  he recorded two opera arias from Tosca in the original language; well sung but not really exceptional. The two Fanciulla arias are a failure. The German translations are slovenly and urge him twice to take his top notes on exposed completely open eh. He does it but the sound screeches in the listener’s ear. He is far better in originally German scores as Tote Stadt (though the duet is re-arranged for tenor only) and Der Evangelimann (shortened version however); complaint arias for which his timbre is exceptionally suited. Pagliacci is a degree too heavy for the voice. Two operetta arias from  forgotten pieces are splendid and the only music we nowadays know from Der Page des Königs and La Vallière. But the sellers among these records were the immensely popular songs from his movies. The records are different and better than the sound track of the movie as we get on these commercial recordings the complete songs while the director most of the time used only one verse specifically recorded for the movie. Music ought not too be too much a hindrance to the magic story line. Apart from these recordings there was no reason for staying in Berlin anymore and therefore he accepted (probably not completely willing and at the time not realizing what a life awaited him) concert tours. He started at De Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, thus renewing his acquaintance with the country that would welcome him in his last years as a free man. But though there was a big Jewish community Antwerp couldn’t compete with Vienna; also with a rich Jewish life and still one of the musical capitals of the world. New York too had been a possibility but his English was rudimentary and the ocean was still too wide in those years, the gap between him and his family in Czernowitz too big. He was very happy to concertize in his home town now that he had become a real star. And for once his whole family (even his father) could proudly attend. He probably still thought of himself as an operatic tenor and he gladly accepted the invitation of Dutch radio to sing Almaviva in Il Barbiere in October 1933, a role for which his cantorial background made him so apt and it remains a pity no recordings exist. Afterwards he went to Vienna to record O sole mio and La Paloma in the original Italian. His first Viennese records for Parlophon and though they are fine, something of the melancholy in his German language recordings of the same songs for Ultraphone is lacking.

In December 1933 he finally gave up on Berlin and moved to Vienna. The well-known British historian Norman Davies warns in his History of the 2nd World War that not every victim of Nazi persecutions was a full blooded democrat. By the time Schmidt moved his home to Vienna Austria had become another fascist state. In early 1933 Austrian chancellor Engelbert Dolfuss (almost as small as Schmidt) had used  police forces to close parliament, to ban democratic elections and other parties except his own. Compared to Hitler he was less anti-Semitic though 14 years earlier he had headed an organization that wouldn’t allow members with Jewish grandparents. And he definitely refused to be incorporated by Germany. Thus he persecuted Austrian Nazis who dreamed of it.  Schmidt had no problems with being the leading singer in a concert on New Years’ Eve, organized by the Austrian fascist party. One month later a socialist revolt was bloodily crushed and the army, supported by fascist militias, killed 1.600 people and shot without process several socialist leaders. Meanwhile Joseph Schmidt was filming at a few kilometres distance. Dolfuss was a great admirer of Italian dictator Mussolini who supported his Austrian colleague as at the time Mussolini didn’t want Germany to become a neighbour of Italy. The Austrian Nazis tried a putsch in July 1934. They failed though they succeeded in murdering Dolfuss. The army once more crushed this revolt and the Austrian fascist party stayed in power till Hitler succeeded “Der Anschluss” in March 1938. There is no hint Schmidt ever had second thoughts on the fascist state he was living in.

At the end of 1933 and during the first months of 1934 Schmidt starred in a second movie: “Wenn du jung bist, gehört dir die Welt (The World is Yours When You’re Yong)” with the same team of “Ein Lied”. Oswald was once more  the director and Ernst Neubach concocted a somewhat similar story. This time Schmidt plays a gardener at a manor. He is in love with the daughter of the house who kindly regards him as a nice little pet. Of course he has a brilliant voice, leaves his garden, becomes world famous and returns: just in time to see a more handsome and taller fellow get the girl. Neubach too is the lyricist and Hans May the composer of two original movie songs; none of them very distinct or especially tuneful. Director Oswald proved to be a genius; not in movie making but in finishing in an astonishing ten weeks and within budget. The movie was far less successful as by now the novelty of the tiny tenor had somewhat faded and the May songs were not exactly memorable; the exception was the Italian folk song Tiri Tomba. Schmidt rerecorded them commercially as well and the Italian song is bubbling with joy and coloratura: another Schmidt recording later top tenors preferred not to compete with. There were two operatic recordings as well: Martha and a shortened version of the Flotow aria from Stradella. The second movie was somewhat less successful but nevertheless the first movie was still showing everywhere and uncle Leo had no problems filling Schmidt’s agenda with concerts. Not everywhere did the tenor book an outspoken success. During his first tour of Switzerland critics wondered if the tenor had some problems in the lower and middle voice as they were not aware of the miracles fraught by technicians in the recording studios. The high point in the year was his visit to Palestine (as the country was called and Schmidt himself called it). He sang concerts in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jaffa. Thanks to this visit we have two songs recorded with piano: one in the Lord’s own language Aramaic and one in Hebrew and Schmidt is brilliant in both.  The tenor afterwards said to be extremely happy to be able to speak Hebrew. Schmidt too was a child of his time and in an interview with a Viennese Zionist magazine he used the claptrap of the period: speaking about the ‘new man’ who was created in Palestine. He ended his euphoric statements by declaring that his dream was to live in Palestine in a few year’s time. When that time came four years later with the arrival of the Nazis in Vienna, Schmidt favoured flying to comfortable Western Europe instead of primitive and poor Palestine and he preferred to forget his earlier promise. Still one readily believes Schmidt’s enthusiasm was real in 1934 as it corresponds with other stories on his attitude. There seem to have been two Joseph Schmidts. One is a polite and rather aloof artist. The second one is a guy bubbling with jokes (even on his own small size), always in for a prank. The first Schmidt is known by non-Jews; the second one leaves his reserves behind him as he is completely comfortable only with his own people.

After his Palestine tour Schmidt became one of the predecessors of nowadays soap series which are less original than often thought. The moment the sound movies became easily to produce some clever German movie people realized they could cash in if they didn’t limit themselves to their own language. So the star, always a singer as music was far more international than plain acting, often was asked to repeat his role and his songs in the same sets, though using English or French. Jan Kiepura was the king of the three language version. Most of the time the singer was surrounded by English and French co-stars who replaced the original German language actors. The method was a successful one as the director and a lot of his assistants plus the singer already knew what to do and could easily avoid the problems met with during the first shooting in German. Usually the singer rerecorded his hits in the language of the new movie and often added an English or French song which was not in the original.  In early summer 1934 Schmidt made his first English language movie: a remake of “Ein Lied”. He sang the aria from L’Africaine in Italian, had his Hans May-songs translated and added a hauntingly beautiful aria from Wallace’s Maritana which replaced ‘Launisches Glück”. Of course he recorded his English songs at the same time for commercial release and did four operatic arias as well; all of them quite impressive as he had the ideal voice for La donna è mobile and the Turandot arias (at least on record). In his record of Di quella pira he followed Lazaro’s example and interpolated a third high C. He had barely time for a holiday as filming started for his third movie: “Ein Stern fällt vom Himmel (A Star Fell From Heaven)”. This time Neubach’s imagination had given up and a new team of screen writers came up with an even more silly story. The voice of a conservatory student is almost the same as the sounds made by a famous American tenor. As the American has a vocal crisis the small student has to sing while the big guy mimes the song. A few misunderstandings later the worth of the real tenor is recognized and one cannot almost believe it but this time he gets the girl. Apart from the story, the same team did the job and this time Hans May (with once more lyrics from Ernst Neubach) came up with three fine tunes. Therefore the spectator nowadays could almost kill director Oswald. The title song is one of the most brilliant show pieces ever sung by the tenor, with his voice raising half a tone above chorus and orchestra in the last strophe of an extremely difficult song and sailing to an unbelievable high D. And all the time the director gives us the image of the American mime player in a Honolulu setting. Apart from a finely executed Elisir d’amore aria and an Italian tarantella there is another redeeming feature. Joseph Schmidt accompanies himself in a Neapolitan song, finishing too on a D: “Mandulinata a Napule” and records prove that young Gigli and mature Di Stefano have to yield first prize to the Jewish tenor. Schmidt of course duplicated his recordings made for the movie with the same songs for commercial release. He sounds as fine on record as on the screen. Probably everything was recorded at the same time. The records he made for the sound tracks of his movies are available on CD though these shortened versions often lack the impetus of the longer commercial ones.

By ‘Ein Stern’ Schmidt had become more of a movie star than an operatic singer. That meant he was the subject of many an article in all kinds of movie magazines which proliferated in every language possible in those days. Readers eagerly discussed every star’s move. I remember a Flemish magazine where for weeks a discussion raged on who was the greatest tenor in the world. The candidates were Gigli, Schmidt and Richard Crooks. Schmidt won by popular vote and when beaten Gigliites scornfully retorted that Schmidt didn’t sing at La Scala, angry Schmidt fans replied that Gigli had threatened to resign if La Scala engaged their favourite. Utter nonsense it might be, but people widely read it and believed it. There remains something moving about millions of people, often not too well schooled, taking an interest in classical singers. Movie fame had another advantage for the tenor. Many a female fan believed the stories of his first two movies and readily thought that the poor small guy was extremely lonely. He himself always stressed the fact in many an interview that he was not married, didn’t even have a fiancée as he had no time for female company though he longed to find a soul mate. So many a candidate was ready to console the poor dear and they soon discovered he was definitely not inexperienced. With one notorious exception he always succeeded to keep details of his affairs out of the press which anyway didn’t want to kill the legends itself had created.
Therefore only his intimates knew of his longest relationship. During one of his Vienna concerts he had met Polish Lotte Reig, 24 years old and married to Otto Kohn (both were Jewish). Schmidt started off a passionate liaison with the lady. Soon this became an on/off relation. When they were together they quarrelled, when they were not they missed each other. The relationship would last almost until Schmidt’s last months though he definitely was not abstemious when Madame Kohn was not in the neighbourhood. Early in 1935 she became pregnant and she told Schmidt in those pre-DNA-days he was the father. We don’t know his reaction.

Uncle Leo busied himself further with organizing concert tours and making himself unsympathetic to the many admirers, fans or friends who wanted to speak with the tenor or hoped to get some money. There are reports that Schmidt was somewhat afraid of his uncle and warned people that the man could be distinctly unpleasant. Maybe it is true, maybe not. Many a singer has hidden behind the back of an impresario or a relative (witness Pavarotti and Breslin, Melchior and Kleinchen, Fischer-Dieskau and Varady), giving the fully wrong impression that he/she was the good guy/girl but for the dragon at the door. One can get an impression of uncle Leo as a bully when one old friend of the tenor told the story that Schmidt was having a nice conversation with the lady for only a few minutes when uncle Leo appeared and chased the tenor away to his hotel room as he had a concert three hours later. Nevertheless one cannot imagine tenors like Del Monaco, Corelli or Pertile (who didn’t utter one single sound on a performance day) chatting away with some friends, barely a few moments before a concert. Still, it is possible Schmidt didn’t dare to send uncle Leo away as his sense of family was intense. Little is it known that after he left Berlin he often returned there privately to visit uncle Hermann, another brother of his mother (fate unknown though one has no problem imagining it). It cannot have been a pleasant experience for Schmidt though he clearly was not forgotten and his ‘Ein Lied’ was still to be viewed in some movie theatres. But his Rumanian passport would have been of little value if he should have stumbled upon a patrol of SA-thugs who liked beating Jews. That same year was the last time the tenor once again accepted new operatic challenges for radio. In Vienna he sang the tenor part in Rossini’s last “operatic” creation: the Stabat Mater. Then it was time for concert tours in Switzerland and France. In the city of Mulhouse (in Alsace where there were a lot of Jews living; remember L’Amico Fritz) he met the Solnik family; friends of uncle Hermann and rich textile merchants. Mary-Rose Solnik, mother of three children, was ardently and shamelessly wooed by the tenor while her husband looked on, half in amusement, half in anger. We shall meet the Solniks again during Schmidt’s tragic flight to safety. He performed a second new operatic role to him for Viennese radio: a role which due to his high tessitura particularly suited him: Arturo in I Puritani. The opera was recorded at the time of the broadcast but the recordings have never popped up; probably destroyed during the war. And then Schmidt took on his last radio operatic role: Lionel in Martha for Vara; the socialist department of Dutch Radio. They clearly had no problems in engaging a tenor singing and living in a fascist country. During the rehearsals for Martha he got a telegram telling him his (?) son Otto was born on the 29th of October 1935. Otto Kohn is still alive and allegedly living in Antwerp.

(with Leo Engel on the left)

Next year would bring several ups and a few downs. In January 1936 he received the news that he was finally allowed to sing once more in Germany. The German Jews were more and more excluded from normal life and they had to form their own organizations, with a vigilant German administration trying as hard as it could to pester them. The Schmidt-concert at the end of January was cancelled as the tenor’s father had died but the singer promised to turn up for two concerts in February. This was too fine an occasion for the Nazis to miss and they forbade them. On the first of April 1936 a new law stipulated that all Jewish music making could only be listened too by Jews. This meant that no radio performances of Offenbach, Mendelsohn, Mahler etc were allowed and no records by Jewish singers could be played on radio or sold in shops. Nevertheless German plants continued to produce elder Schmidt-records for export as they brought in valuable foreign currency. The typical tactic by authoritarian regimes of pressure-small relaxation of rules-new and heavier pressure etc was used in Nazi Germany as well. In April 1936 the Jüdischen Kulturbundes finally got permission to welcome Schmidt for two concerts: Jews only, though there were reports some people in the audience very distinctly had a non-Jewish profile. Nor did ordinary Germans understood or were willing to understand what was happening. “Ein Lied” was still on and though the Nazis were three years in power, a lot of other Germans didn’t like to be told which music or singers they could listen to or not listen to. So a lot of letters still reached editorial desks asking why Schmidt was not allowed to concertize for non-Jews.

The Berlin concerts took place while the tenor was making two movies at the same time: one in London and one in Vienna. The London one was an English language remake of “Ein Stern”, though this time the inevitable Oswald was not the director. Schmidt sang a new English song, especially composed by Hans May who had already written some movie scores for English movies and who would soon escape to the U.K. And Schmidt recorded his movie songs once more for normal release. More important was Schmidt’s last movie “Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben (Today Is the Most Beautiful Day in My Life)” with the same old team of Oswald, Neubach for the lyrics and May for the songs. The screen writers surpassed themselves as Schmidt had to play a twin: one a very successful tenor and one a circus clown with exactly the same magnificent voice but without success as his audiences probably all had impaired hearing. Oswald was his old untalented self and many a spectator wasn’ too happy after viewing the movie. By the time it was shown everywhere the tenor had already recorded the title song: one of the most melodious and spectacular movie songs ever written; a masterpiece of joy, speed and  lust for life. “Heut ist der schönste Tag” is still the song Schmidt is most identified with and though all tenors since that time have admired the brilliant singing no-one famous  has dared to record it as every tenor knows he will lose out in  comparison. Probably only Lanza’s “Be My Love” (written  by exiled operetta composer Nicholas Brodzky) is on a par with “Heut ist der schönste Tag”. Nevertheless director Oswald succeeded in cutting the title song into two parts in the movie; afraid that some spectators wouldn’t have the courage to listen to it as a whole. Therefore the fabulous commercial recordings are much to be preferred. Parlophone knew the tenor’s worth and apart from his movie songs he was extremely busy with other recordings. He put two songs by Richard Tauber on shellack; both conducted by the tenor-composer and at the time of his last movie’s release Schmidt made some of his best records: almost all of them unforgettable. There is the fine aria from Le Postillon de Longjumeau (with the spectacular D natural) and a splendid performance of an aria from Lehar’s Zigeunerliebe. There are some of the best Neapolitan songs ever recorded (especially Maria, mari !), two popular Schubert songs and a few waltzes in German (Liebe kleine Frau haunts one for days once one has heard it). The movie “Heut ist der schönste Tag in meinem Leben”was premièred in Vienna in May 1936 and it was Schmidt’s last one. There still were two years to go before Hitler’s armies marched into Austria, but there were no movies anymore. We don’t know the exact reason. Maybe by that time the general public had enough of those snotty stories or by now they wanted another and new singer. Probably the return was not too rich. Anyway no English or French version was produced. By the time the movie appeared Lotte Reig had obtained a divorce from her husband but Schmidt refused to marry her and Otto kept the name of Kohn. So once more it was to be one concert tour after the other. At one of these for Dutch Vara there is a filmed fragment of just 90 seconds with the tenor starting to sing one of his movie songs: the only live footage up to now of Schmidt. And concerts went on and on: the Netherlands, France, Poland and once more a return to Germany. In January 1937 he sang in Frankfurt and Berlin; Jews only and with a lot of swastika’s drawn and insults written on the advertisements. The tenor would never return anymore. Still some backwards movie houses in small places showed ‘Ein Lied’. As all later Schmidt movies were forbidden the Germans only knew the tenor by that one movie though of course they still had many of his records.

In the meantime  “The Tiny Man with the Great Voice”  had other territories to conquer. He probably was not too happy with that publicity slogan,  concocted by the Russian American Jewish impresario Sol Hurok. Still, for a good part of 1937 he had a busy concert career in the US. And maybe that is one of the reasons too there were no movie plans. Of course his English movies were known in the States and the European film magazines speculated on Schmidt going to Hollywood, but there never came an offer. In March 1937 he arrived in New York, not knowing where the tour would end. This was rather typical for the time. Concert dates were not made years in advance. If a singer hit it with the public one simply added a few names of places and dates to his agenda. His first appointment was at one of the many concerts sponsored by General Motors  in Carnegie Hall. We are lucky that the concert was broadcasted and that it was recorded. This is still the voice we know so well from his commercial recordings and in “Una furtiva lagrima” he succeeds in trilling for almost ten seconds (the Jews in the audience will immediately have recognized the former cantor) and finishing on a rather unmusical high B. From another concert we have the fine walz of Die Lustige Witwe, full of ‘echt Wiener Schwung’. Early summer the tenor returned home and went once more into the recording studio. On August the 27th he recorded four titles; one of them Lolita and a German song where the engineers clearly made less use of their control knobs. In “Eine Laute mit verblasstem Band” one hears a rather hoarse tenor and the record is probably nearer the real voice than most Parlophone records. But the last two records of this session inspired this writer’s long interest in the singer. Schmidt was the first non-Dutch speaking tenor (Jacques Urlus was a Dutchman) who recorded in my own language: Dutch, the language of Flanders and the Netherlands. One of the songs was the Italian ditty “O Marenariello” which he made into ‘Het vissersmeisje’ (the Fisher’s Girl) but the other was an original Dutch song: Ik hou van Holland (I love Holland). Contrary to what one can read in his biographies, the song was not specially composed for Schmidt. It was already a successful tango when he recorded it but it became an instant hit in the Dutch-speaking countries when it appeared in Schmidt’s version. At the time he and  everybody else didn’t have the slightest inkling these would be his very last commercial recordings. He was 33: the age Franco Corelli made his first record; the age Beniamino Gigli cut his Victor acoustical recordings; the age Carlo Bergonzi and Luciano Pavarotti sang their first commercial recital.

On the first of October 1937 he was once again in New York. He probably never knew this was the date the showing of ‘Ein Lied’ was definitely forbidden in Germany. Two days later he sang the first of his four Big Apple concerts. We only have parts of the first one: the big impressive duet from Faust with Maria Jeritza. And on the 7th of November we hear for the last time a testimony of his voice which at the time still seems fully unimpaired: Puccini arias and duets with Grace Moore. Up to now nothing has appeared from the last 5 years of his very short life. Interesting to know is the fact that one of his partners was the German nightingale Erna Sack (no duet survived), who was immensely popular in her own country and who made no problems singing and being photographed with a Jew. Of course we don’t know how Goebbels welcomed her when she returned. The tenor himself made a gruelling tour through the States which led him to 8 States, a lot of them in the South and even in the West. Early February 1938 he returned to Vienna, exhausted and not too happy with what was waiting there: a trial. He won it but there was not much glory in it. A girl who had succumbed to his charms during filming “Ein Stern’ had plotted with her husband to blackmail him. The husband had filed a complaint in the hope the tenor would pay up and his wife had put forward a false testimony. As a result the police made an inquiry and the two blackmailers were condemned but Schmidt could easily have done without this kind of publicity. Anyway, the trial didn’t make big headlines in the papers as Austria had other problems to deal with. Schmidt and a minority of Austrians followed with rising anxiety the demands of Chancellor Hitler. By 1938 Mussolini understood that no Italian army was a match for the Germans and he refrained from intervening or even giving verbal support to Austria and acquiesced in soon having to meet the Germans at the Brenner as new neighbours. At last Schmidt made a decision. There were concerts waiting abroad and he and uncle Leo decided to leave somewhat earlier. They were accompanied by Lotte Reig and her son Otto. They left Austria on the 7th of March. Five days later the German Army (anyway that part of it that had not stranded on the roads as 70 % of all German cars had, before they reached the border) marched into Austria to “restore order” and to make sure a Nazi Government would make the country into a satellite. When Hitler arrived next day the enthusiasm was so overwhelming he decided on the spot to annex the country.

Thus started Schmidt’ Calvary. The number of countries where he could sing was rapidly shrinking. Most transport in those days was by train and almost all trains to Central Europe went by now so much larger Germany. The tenor cancelled his tour of Czechoslovakia. That country had incorporated age old German territory with French blessing after the world war though the Germans had democratically asked for reunion with either Germany of Austria. Now  there were fears Hitler wouldn’t leave it that way as the Nazis were getting stronger in the German community in Czechia everyday. Balkan countries were not very popular with Schmidt and uncle Leo: too poor, too difficult to travel and too little spectators with enough money to tour for more than a few concerts. So that left Schmidt with Benelux, the Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Britain and eventually the US where Hurok would be happy to organize appearances. The tenor decided to reside in Flanders at the Brugmannlaan in Brussels. There were good train connections and anyway the Dutch speaking countries were the places where he was most welcome. Not that all went perfect. He was invited to sing at a gala for the foreign press at the Paleis voor Schone Kunsten in Brussels. The German journalists protested and didn’t want a Jewish singer. The organization didn’t want to bend its knee completely but still didn’t have the courage to stand up against the bullying. The tenor was not allowed to sing in German. The moment Italian (fascist) journalists got new of that decision they too insisted on the tenor not using their language. But nobody was afraid of the Italians (and Italy didn’t have a common frontier with Belgium). Most of his time Schmidt spent in studying the role of Rodolfo for he would finally make his début on the stage at De Munt. One of his biographers tells that he had asked for the soprano to be not larger than 1. 60 metres (not a big problem in those years when people were so much smaller). The performances were sung in French and at the time Bohème was considered too short an opera. There was a ballet too: Le Loup-Garou (The Werewolf), but the audience came for the tenor and the performance was announced as “Gala Joseph Schmidt”. Mother Sara was present and so were his Alsatian Jewish friends the Solniks. The critics didn’t know too well what to write. Flemish and Walloon critics were (and are) a sorry bunch, always ready to use as many clichés as possible. Attention was more focused on the tenor’s appearance than on his voice. He was thought to be too tiny (Tony Poncet was not an inch larger and nobody complained about his size).Schmidt was somewhat clumsy as an actor on the scene (rather strange for one who had acted in several movies). As to the voice some critics thought he was a bit too Italian; read : not stylish enough. There were the usual complaints about the loss of sonority in the lower and middle voice though the top was considered to be brilliant. He repeated the role in a second gala one month later on the 19th of February. He was Rodolfo too at the Antwerp Opera where all performances were sung in Dutch except some galas. Maybe he sang the role in the original Italian. His success in Antwerp was big. He had to encore “Che gelida manina”. For almost a year Schmidt alternated concerts with performances of La Bohème. He sang the role 24 times with several companies. He performed at the Verviers Opera (Wallonia, now defunct), in Dordrecht and Utrecht (the Netherlands) and in Bruges, Kortrijk and Oostende (Fassbind in his biography uses the ridiculous and wrong French translations instead of the correct and original Dutch names. A Swiss should know better). One wonders why the tenor didn’t perform more opera roles ? Had he become somewhat lazy, preferring the easier concerts ? Was the voice maybe deteriorating and having difficulty to sustain a whole opera ? We don’t know but it is sure there never was an offer to sing Eléazar in La Juive as his mother used to tell. Schmidt himself in his correspondence mentions an eventual Pagliacci but that never came to be. And he never was rehearsing L’Africaine in May 1940 as the ridiculous 1958 biopicture (directed by Neubach) shows.

In the meantime the tenor definitely followed political events with anguish. After the Munich Treaty Hitler had incorporated the German Sudetenland (handed over against the will of its people to Czechoslovakia in 1918). But only a few months later he encouraged Slovakia to break away and become a German satellite and on the 15th of March 1939 the Germans invaded Czechia and proclaimed it a protectorate. The mask on Hitler’s pretence of annexing only age old German territory had fallen. Soon afterwards Hitler started to pressure Poland to agree with the incorporation of the free town of Danzig (German too and with a large majority of Nazis on its council but declared to be an independent city by the Allies in 1918 with Polish custom officers). On the 23th of August the two gangster regimes Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union became allies and signed a secret treaty whereby they divided large parts of Eastern Europe they would soon conquer. Once more tensions mounted quickly and Schmidt started to take precautions. He had himself handed a passport by the Rumanian embassy in Brussels on the 31st of August. Less than 24 hours later the Germans invaded Poland. Two days later France and the UK declared war on Germany though they kept silent when the Soviet raptors too descended on Poland and took half of it (never handed back and still part of Ukraine). As a consequence of the war there was a rift between Schmidt and dear uncle Leo. Engel had received an invitation by Sol Hurok to concertize in the US but preferred to stay in Europe. Schmidt was less naïve and wanted to accept. He didn’t believe Hitler’s promises that Benelux would stay out of the war and of course he spoke some English which uncle Leo probably did not. After the first days of panic the Germans seemed indeed not to invade the low countries. So Schmidt agreed with Engels’ pleas to fulfil his concerts engagements during the season 39-40. Afterwards he would take his freedom. Several of his concert dates were in front of the mikes of Dutch and Flemish Public Radio. My mother clearly remembers him dedicating a song to all Jewish children of the world (Flemish Radio wouldn’t have allowed him to speak of Jewish children in German territories only). By then he probably had little difficulty in speaking Dutch and he created a wonderful song written specially for him: “Uw glimlach is mijn zonneschijn” by Flemish composer Hans Flower. When I was a producer at Flemish Radio and Television I searched in vain for a copy in the archives. On Youtube there is a historical and very beautiful version by soprano Mia van den Bosch of this song written for Schmidt. And apart from singing Schmidt was once more busy womanizing. There was a brief relation with a Jewish folk singer. He tried again to seduce Mary Solnik and of course the relation with Lotte Reig went on and off. And there was an allegation he fathered a second son in Kessel-Lo (near Leuven in Flanders). How did the voice cope with all the pressures during this period. Once more reports are contradictory. As there are no recordings we cannot judge for ourselves. There were discussions in the Netherlands to record but they didn’t result in anything concrete. Some Dutch reviewers wrote that Schmidt simply couldn’t sing anymore. The reviews of his Swiss concerts too were not very flattering. His accompanist in the Netherlands, Hungarian pianist Géza Frid, said that the voice had gone. Dutch critic Leo Riemens wrote that the voice was better than ever and Leonce Gras, his Flemish accompanist, said to me that Schmidt had absolutely no vocal problems. He told me the story that Schmidt had no absolute pitch. During a concert absent minded Gras started to play a song one full tone too high and Schmidt went along without realizing it until it was too late. Schmidt almost choked but kept doggedly on and finished without anybody noticing.

The last year of his career was not a glorious one. He sang more and more in small places in Flanders and the Netherlands and then substituted “Holland” in his popular “Ik hou van Holland” by the name of whichever hamlet he performed in. His last documented concerts are for Flemish Radio in a popular programme together with some stand up comedians and there is a last Rodolfo in Ghent on the 17th of March 1940. And then on the morning of the 10th of May there was a very rude awakening. When the Germans invaded an incredible stampede started. During their invasion in 1914 the imperial armies had shot indiscriminately 6000 civilians. Therefore everybody thought there would be a repeat of that horrible behaviour. Soon all roads were cluttered with 2 million refugees and between them….no Schmidt or Engel. This sounds somewhat strange as in the past the tenor had instinctively guessed what would happen later on with Jewish people. Maybe he trusted his Rumanian passport. Anyway this time the German army behaved almost civilized and most people returned home. Schmidt got a new shock when only a few weeks after the armistice in Western Europe the Soviet Union also took its part of  the loot. It annexed the Northern Bukovina where the Schmidt family lived. Many people (and a lot of them were Jews) distrusted the communists as well and with good reason. But for several months Schmidt was without news from his family. There seemed to be only one solution for Schmidt: leaving for the part of France that was not occupied by the Germans. He therefore applied as soon as possible to the new masters for an exit visa. Biographer Fassbind once more is wrong when he writes that Belgian bureaucracy refused. He himself publishes a letter in German by the tenor who mentions that everything depends on ‘die Besatzungsbehörde” (the occupation bureaucracy). One thing is sure, he got an exit visa. From France onwards he would travel to Spain and Portugal (where he hoped to find Lotte and Otto) and then take ship for …Bolivia (and then onwards to the US). He had one problem. He had to leave without almost no money at all because the Germans didn’t allow the transfer of big sums in cash (or otherwise) to countries not in their power. So either Leo Engel still had the money, had already spent it on a luxury life or had it stashed away somewhere. Fact is, no trace was ever found.

In the autumn of 1940 Schmidt arrived in the South of France. He had allowed his Bolivia visa to lapse as he still had no news of his family. This only arrived when he lived in a shabby hotel in Nice in the south of France (only occupied by the Italians five days before Schmidt died). In Nice he found back the Solniks and other Jewish refugees who paid his bills. The collaborationist French Government (so called Vichy Government) didn’t like the Jewish refugees and tried to make life  as difficult as possible for them.  Schmidt was not allowed to travel without permission and he was denied to give concerts so he could earn his living. For more than a year he lived in dire and frustrating circumstances. In December 1941 there was finally some good news. Thanks to Hurok an American law firm had succeeded in procuring a visa for Cuba. Schmidt humbly asked the Marseille consulate of Cuba to send him the documents as he was not allowed to pick them up himself. He succeeded in reserving a ship ticket. Fassbind tells the story that the tenor was waiting on the waterfront together with hundreds of others for transport when they got the horrible news that this same day the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbour  and as a consequence there would be no ships anymore for the Western Hemisphere. The story as could be expected is once more too good to be true. Fassbind himself publishes the letter of Schmidt to the Marseilles consulate, dated on the 7th of December; the day of the Japanese attack. And in those days news travelled far more slow. Moreover in this letter Schmidt writes he has a ship that will leave on the 20th.  In reality ships could still leave for the Americas on the 7th. It was not until the 11th of December that ship traffic stopped as Hitler had declared war on the US that day. Still the deception must have been cruel for the singer. And to add to Schmidt’ sorrows Lotte and Otto were not in Portugal as he thought but made their appearance in Nice, accompanied by Lotte’s current lover. Then happened (or didn’t happen) another curious chapter in those last sad months. After the war Lotte would produce a document stating she had married the tenor in “a Jewish ceremony” on the 13th of January 1942. Mary Solnik later confirmed the story but told too that next day Schmidt already wanted a divorce as the evening of the so called marriage Lotte had returned to her lover. In 1954 Lotte produced a document in Antwerp to have this so called marriage act invalidated. She failed as almost everything was not correct on the so called act. Moreover there was not even a signature by a rabbi. Why did she do it ? Probably she was surprised that Schmidt was not forgotten, that indeed his reputation had even grown. Maybe she hoped for some money as by that time the first LP’s and 45’s had appeared. Maybe she didn’t know the tenor had always signed away later royalties in exchange for ready cash. Or even as she knew, she maybe hoped for a little emotional blackmail of EMI. Anyway she succeeded in surviving the war.

Schmidt was surprised when he received a letter in February 1942 asking him to sing a few songs as part of a tour sponsored by a Jewish refugee committee. He readily agreed and one day before he could sing once again in public after two years of silence the bureaucracy of Vichy France struck and cancelled his permission. Moreover he was banned towards a small place, a holiday resort (near the city of Clermond-Ferrand) and not a very bustling affair in the war when it had only 2600 inhabitants. He had no money and he had to humiliate himself and ask Lotte’s lover for a loan. Originally he was meant to live in a refugee camp but there were some old Jewish (rich) friends living there too and they took him in. He was released once when he at last got permission to sing during one concert and not more. He sang three arias from French operas as he was not allowed to sing in another language. It is painfully symbolic that one of the last arias he ever sang in public (maybe even the very last one) is the beautiful lament of Rodrigo in Massenet’s Le Cid: “Ah tout est bien fini ! (All is finished)”. This was on the 14th of May 1942 and afterwards it was once more waiting and waiting and reading about Germany’s successes on all fronts. At the end of August beginning of September horrible rumours started to take wings. In fact, they were harsh realities and are one of the most shamefully transactions of the war. The French Government’s writ ran not only in the unoccupied part of France but in the occupied as well as long as this was not contrary to German interest. The Germans didn’t trust  French police and made life somewhat difficult for them. There came to be an understanding. Germany would accept more French police competence in the occupied zone. In exchange France would deliver a lot of Jews to work in the east as the official explanation was formulated. Though official France discriminated already a lot against all Jews, it still didn’t want to deliver Jews who were French citizens. So the French police started to round up Jewish refugees without a French passport. In one month time 10.000 Jews were delivered. Schmidt and a lot of Jews became mortally afraid. The tenor realized his Rumanian passport probably wouldn’t protect him any longer as Rumania was an ally of Germany. Therefore he started making plans for a desperate flight to Switzerland. He had a companion: Selma Wolkenheim, a Jewish girl living too at the villa who had, one almost says of course, become his new ‘girl friend’. 6 other refugees joined them in the risky enterprise. Schmidt had to report every 48 hours with the local police and the road to Switzerland would take several more days. So there was to be no return as he was sure to be severely punished (maybe delivered to the Germans) if caught. Once more Schmidt loaned a lot of money with his friends and at the end of September the group started out. We don’t know anything on the actual expedition but Schmidt later told they reached the Swiss frontier and were twice caught trying to pass by Swiss officers. They had to return to France. In the night of the 7th and the 8th ofOctober he and Selma succeeded. He had five weeks to live.

With historical hindsight it is easy, too easy to accuse the Swiss authorities of miserly, boorish behaviour but the country wasn’t the prosperous one it is today. Moreover, Stalingrad was still some months off and though nowadays historians know that Hitler had a more sophisticated use for Switzerland than just annexing it (there were Swiss Nazis), the Swiss didn’t know that during the war. So, notwithstanding Schmidt’s name and reputation and successes in the country before the war, the tenor received the same shabby treatment as other unwelcome refugees. In October and November alone 2.200 people had succeeded in reaching Swiss safety. Schmidt too was not expelled. He had to fill in all necessary forms.  He took the train from Genève to Zürich and according to biographer Fassbind the first face he saw was that of Ernst Neubach. Once more this sounds too good to be true. The lyricist may have met Schmidt somewhere during his last month but this story smacks too much of a bad operetta libretto. Mr. Neubach later on told that Schmidt hardly wanted to speak and wove him away with a tired hand. This is hardly believable. Every refugee, without money or luggage, wouldn’t willingly refuse potential help. Moreover in Zürich Schmidt immediately contacted a Jewish agency for help to refugees; so why would he have scorned Neubach’s offer ? From Zürich on he went to a refugee camp 30 kilometres further. Though he was not well, he was not put into a hospital as other refugees. But his arrival immediately put several people into action (Jewish and non-Jewish). Five days after his arrival there was already a letter from a committee to allow Schmidt to sing. Four days later a (Jewish) music agency asked the same question. The responsible Swiss civil service proved to be harsh and probably had instruction from higher on that Schmidt was too well known and therefore the Germans wouldn’t like it if he was prominently displayed. Each time permission was refused with the pretext that the tenor was not better than other refugees and wouldn’t get special treatment.

There were 350 refugees living at ‘Flüchtlingslager Girenbad’, one of 200 refugee camps in Switzerland. Most people in Girenbad came from Poland and they had to sleep on straw mattresses. Not Schmidt, who shared a small room and a real bed with an infirmary. Refugees had to work in this former textile plant and life was more or less militarily regulated. Contact with ordinary Swiss was officially not encouraged but often the local bakery voluntarily sent  extra bread. The refugees could take a stroll too on some days though only in small groups. When Schmidt arrived winter was coming and refugees mostly complained of bad shoes, no real winter clothes and very cold nights. A stroll therefore often ended at the café Waldegg where one could enjoy some real heat. Schmidt immediately contacted his mother, his friends in France and even uncle Leo in Brussels to tell them that he was safe. He didn’t mention that his health was deteriorating fast. On the 27 nd of October he therefore travelled to Zürich for a stay at the city hospital. He had a sore throat and he complained about permanent pains in the breast. The doctor who examined him thought these were neuralgic pains from exhaustion and stress. At the hospital he got visits from tenor Max Lichtegg and baritone Marko Rothmüller who promised they would do what they could to have him back on the concert stage. Schmidt had to leave the hospital on the 14th of November, apt for service. He complained bitterly that nobody took his breast pains seriously so that he even was considered to simulate. He returned to the Girenbad camp where the head guard advised him to take a walk to café Waldegg and speak to the lady who ran the house. She had never heard of Joseph Schmidt but she told him to return next day Monday the 16th of November when she would prepare some hot water and a good warm room to rest for a few hours. So next day the tenor arrived together with an old movie acquaintance, himself interned and a guard. At 10.30 a.m. the friend told the landlady to contact the camp and ask for the doctor as the singer was unwell. The doctor came immediately and gave the tenor a few injections to calm his ailing body. At 11.10 all was over. A rabbi, refugee as well, came over and kept “kadish”. In the evening an undertaker sent a car to transport the body to Zürich. 15 Refugees were permitted to accompany the car for a few kilometres but the whole camp went out and walked the whole distance. None of the Swiss guards made a move to restrain the men. The day after the best Swiss newspaper Die Neue Zürcher Zeitung carried just three and a half lines. On the 18th of November Schmidt was laid in his grave; nr. 2231 of the Jewish graveyard. Nine people attended the burial. Among them was Rothmüller. Schmidt was 38 years  8 months and 12 days old.

Schmidt’s story doesn’t end here. We don’t know how or when his family got the news. After the war Rumania was governed by communist thugs who didn’t allow mother Schmidt to visit her son’s grave. She died in 1950. His family was finally allowed to migrate to Israel. Uncle Leo allegedly died in Brussels during the war. I have no idea when nor do I know what fate Uncle Hermann suffered.

Schmidt’s fame didn’t diminish: on the contrary. Immediately after the war producers in liberated countries and Germany brought out his records as here was a fine tenor and a victim of the Nazis. I checked Flemish Radio’s archives and discovered that for almost a year after the liberation in September 1944 a Schmidt record was played every day. The arrival of LP and EP made him even more popular and record after record appeared. Schmidt was one who passed the Preiser test together with Gigli and Tauber. Preiser was and is the firm which got original matrices from the majors to bring LP’s on the market of all great operatic singers. Only records of the three aforementioned tenors didn’t attain their place in that treasure trove for vocal buffs. EMI thought them to be commercially valuable and never stopped bringing out their records. All of Schmidt’s records can be found on CD. Pertile, Merli, Martinelli or Schipa would be amazed to learn that a film-tenor’s records, constantly vilified by serious critics, are more readily available today than their takes. That should teach us a lesson. As a small boy living in a small Flemish town with no opera house I learned my trade with another movie tenor. If possible he was even more vilified than Schmidt. If one reads the old reviews in The Gramophone or Opera Magazine to young people and then play them the records in question they always ask if the critics of 50 years ago had impaired hearing. But here too the tide has changed. Among singers themselves that later movie tenor has become an icon, admired by Luciano Pavarotti and Josep Carreras. Placido Domingo referred to him as the singer of the 20th century who had most influenced him. Of course I refer to Freddy Cocozza, better known as Mario Lanza.

(Tauber and Schmidt)

Joseph Schmidt too has become a model of beauty, joy and sadness. There scarcely goes a day by without fresh flowers on his grave. After the war a stone was set up that simply but powerfully stated in German and Hebrew: Joseph Schmidt, Kammersänger, 1904-1942 plus “Ein Stern fällt”. (A Star Falls)

Jan Neckers, OperaNostalgia