White Shirt Monday: Hips Don’t Lie

Rk hipsdontlie[Pumps, silk stockings, curves and cleavage: what makes an Octavian hit the space between the feminine and the masculine enough to be perceived as transgressive from both sides? – Delia Reinhardt, posing for the 1st Act of Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier”, 1920s. – Photo Credit: Willi Schuh (ed.). Der Rosenkavalier. Fassungen, Filmszenarium, Briefe. Frankfurt/M.: Fischer 1971, illustr. 27]

Silk pumps? – Part of what makes these vintage Octavians so fascinating is being able to see the sifts in ideas of femininity and masculinity, often tied in with imaginations of class, too. – Apart from the constant impression that apparently youths of 17 years and 2 months shave their legs in 1750s Vienna (or 1910s Vienna/Munich/Dresden), at some points, the simple issue of pants (silky as they may have been) seems to have been enough, a relaxed stance and frank look in the eye (see exhibit 2, at please take not of the billing as “Rosenkavaher”. I am not arguing with that.)

Delia Reinhardt (1892-1974) was actually a soprano in the fach of jugendlich-dramatisch and sang, next to A LOT of Octavians, the “Figaro” Countess (!), but also Cherubino (which is a bit like dating yourself, isn’t it?), then parts like Agathe in “Freischütz” and Elsa in “Lohengrin”. She started out in the 1910s in Munich with Bruno Walter, and sang at the MET in the early 1920s – again Octavian, but also Sieglinde (“Walküre”) and even the title role in “Madama Butterfly”. (there are two clips on YouTube to catch an impression – Agathe and Sieglinde).

She was first married to baritone of Jewish heritage and was vocally anti-Nazi, which nixed her stage career in Germany – as early as 1933, abruptly. She continued to give song recitals (the only public appearances still allowed to her) because she was of the opinion that you could not leave the country to the barbarians who unfortunately ran it at the time.  Brave, outspoken singers who knew how to woe Lotte Lehmann onstage while wearing those shoes? Sign me up.

4 thoughts on “White Shirt Monday: Hips Don’t Lie”

  1. “Quella chioma, quell’aria brillante, quel vermiglio donnesco color.”
    Imagine a repertory company that offers both Nozze and Rosenkavalier. Imagine the Countess, Cherubino, Almaviva singing the Marschallin, Oktavian, Ochs–without changing costume, makeup, or characterization. They will be closer to Strauss and Hofmannsthal than most modern productions are.


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