Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová

Tchaikovsky Research
Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová
(1869–1936), as Tatyana at the first performance of Yevgeny Onegin outside Russia (Prague, 1888)

Czech soprano (b. 11 January 1869 [N.S.] in Prague; d. 9 April 1936 in Prague), born Berta Lautererová (Bertha Lauterer); known after her marriage as Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová (Bertha Foerster-Lauterer).


After making her debut as a soprano at the National Theatre in Prague, in 1888 she married the composer and critic Josef Bohuslav Foerster (1859–1951), who moved with her to Hamburg when she joined the city's Stadttheater in 1893. The couple became acquainted with Gustav Mahler, who engaged her for the Hofoper in Vienna in 1903, causing the couple to relocate to the Austrian capital. However, they returned to Prague in 1918, and they remained in Czechoslovakia for the rest of their days.

Tchaikovsky and Foerstrová-Lautererová

Tchaikovsky first met Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová when he came to Prague to conduct, on 24 November/6 December 1888, the first performance of Yevgeny Onegin outside Russia. The opera was a great success in the Czech capital, garnering enthusiastic praise from Antonín Dvořák, and Tchaikovsky himself singled out Berta's performance: "Tatyana was such as I could never have imagined in my dreams" [1]. The composer unexpectedly met her again in Hamburg five years later when he came to the Hanseatic city to attend the revival of his opera Iolanta on 26 August/7 September 1893 (with Gustav Mahler conducting and Kathi Bettaque in the title-role). The second half of that evening's double-bill was taken up by the first performance in Hamburg of Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, and it so happened that Berta was singing Nedda in that opera. As her husband Josef Bohuslav Foerster recalled in his memoirs:

That evening I was full of impatience as I waited for my wife to come home from the theatre. She was in a state of joyful excitement when she arrived. She had met Tchaikovsky backstage, and both had been greatly surprised: Tchaikovsky had had no idea that his Czech Tatyana had landed up in the ensemble of the Hamburg Stadt-Theater, and 'Tatyana' learnt of Tchaikovsky's presence in the theatre only when Pollini [the theatre's director] dragged him onstage [2].

The following evening, Berta and her husband attended a small reception in Tchaikovsky's honour at Bernhard Pollini's house, the only other guest being Gustav Mahler.

Correspondence with Tchaikovsky

3 letters from Tchaikovsky to Berta Foerstrová-Lautererová have survived, dating from 1889 to 1892, all of which have been translated into English on this website:

One letter from Foerstrová-Lautererová to Tchaikovsky, dating from 1/13 June 1889, is preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a4, No. 4528).


External Links

Notes and References

  1. Letter 3733 to Praskovya Tchaikovskaya, 26 November/8 December 1888.
  2. Foerster's memoirs were published in Czech as three separate books in 1931-32, 1938, and 1947, and an abridged German translation later appeared as: Joseph B. Foerster, Der Pilger. Erinnerungen eines Musikers, transl. Pavel Eisner (Prague: Artia, 1955). It is from the latter edition that the above excerpt is quoted in Peter Feddersen, Tschaikowsky in Hamburg. Eine Dokumentation (2006), p. 147.