Emmy Heim

Emmy (Emilie) Heim. Soprano, teacher, b Vienna 10 Sep 1885, naturalized Canadian 1951, d Toronto 13 Oct 1954. Her first music lessons were from her mother, and by seven she was singing Schubert songs.

Heim, Emmy

Emmy (Emilie) Heim. Soprano, teacher, b Vienna 10 Sep 1885, naturalized Canadian 1951, d Toronto 13 Oct 1954. Her first music lessons were from her mother, and by seven she was singing Schubert songs. She studied voice with Frances Mütter in Vienna for 13 years before making her debut as a Lieder singer in that city in 1911. She toured Germany, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Poland, and sang for the soldiers during World War I. Her first husband, whom she married in 1915, was the writer Rheinhardt, and through him she became acquainted with some of the greatest European poets of her day, including Rilke and Hofmannsthal. Oskar Kokoschka did a portrait of her in lithograph, dated 11 Apr 1916. In 1917 she married the architect Franz Singer. Besides the songs of Schubert, Schumann, and Wolf, she sang many contemporary works, and she counted among her acquaintances Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky. On 8 Jun 1919 she sang Stravinsky's Berceuses du chat and Pribaoutki at a concert of the Schoenberg Verein organized by Schoenberg.

By 1930 Heim had taken up residence in England, where she had made her debut in 1929. She maintained a studio in Salzburg for the summers until the Nazi occupation of Austria. From 1934 until 1939 she spent at least four months of each year in Canada. While in Canada for the first time (1934), visiting her brother Jules in Montreal, she met Sir Ernest MacMillan in Toronto and sang for him and some friends. Her reception was so warm that she made her Canadian debut in Toronto's Hart House Theatre 16 Oct 1934. Arrangements for subsequent visits were made by her friend Joy Denton Kennedy. Heim gave lecture-recitals and taught at the TCM (RCMT) each winter and gave recitals in Cambridge, Mass, and Montreal.

During World War II, which she spent in England, Heim sang at Red Cross hospitals and military camps and was a guest lecturer at Oxford and Cambridge. She moved to Canada in 1946 and taught at the RCMT in Toronto until her death. She was a severe but understanding teacher and viewed music from the standpoint of all the arts and their place in the whole of civilization, insisting that her students acquire cultural awareness, a sense of nature, and a knowledge of history. She expressed her philosophy of art and of teaching in a remarkable 15-minute interview taped by Ronald Hambleton two weeks before her death and broadcast 26 Mar 1955 on CBC radio's 'Experience of Life' series. The tape is held in the CBC Program Archives. Some of her pupils were Joan Hall, Frances James, Eileen Law, Margo MacKinnon, Lois Marshall, Joan Maxwell, James Milligan, Mary Morrison, Jan Simons, and Joyce Sullivan.


Further Reading

  • MacMillan, Ernest. 'Emmy Heim,' ConsB, Nov 1954