One of my most colorful ancestral relatives was my mother’s fifth cousin twice removed, Hildi Heulenschrei, the opera singer.
Hildi was born plain Hildegard Schmidt in some little Dorf in Bavaria, around 1890. Nobody knows the exact year she was born because she would never admit her age. The office where her birth certificate was filed was burned down in a fire of mysterious origin when Hildegard was somewhere in her late 20’s. Everybody suspected Hildegard, especially since people had seen her sneaking around the building at night with a can of kerosine and some matches. She was never charged with the deed, however. Hildegard’s father was the town mayor. He was also rich, which meant that Hildegard could get away with just about anything short of murder.
Hildegard was a woman who strove for prominence, and her lifelong ambition was to be an opera singer. There was only one problem. Hildegard couldn’t sing. The kindest voice judge once assessed her singing voice as “beyond human.” When she sang a high note, dogs would pick up their ears and whine.
Hildegard tried hard to remedy the situation by studying with any famous voice teacher who would take her father’s money. After she had been training her voice like this for several years, she decided that the time had come to make her debut somewhere. Her father threw some money around and finally got her a debut in an opera house, which shall remain nameless here at the request of the embarrassed opera house management. The opera was Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. The one critic who condescended to review the first performance wrote, “I have never heard anything like it, and I hope I never will again.”
Not to be swayed by any negativity, Hildegard formed her own opera company, with herself as the one and only prima donna. She adopted the stage name “Hildi Heulenschrei” at the suggestion of one of her leading tenors, who eventually went deaf from singing with her.
Hildi billed herself as “The World’s Loudest Soprano.” People came to her performances to see if she was as bad as everyone said she was. They were not disappointed.
Hildi eventually retired, famous, and very wealthy. If there is a moral to this story, it’s probably “If you can’t make a name for yourself by being good at something, you can still gain fame by being the worst.”
7 thoughts on “More Family History”
I like this. It gives me hope.
Hm … maybe I could succeed as a singer, after all.
Miracles can happen if you believe in yourself, right? 😉
Lesson learned: money and chutzpah lead to success. Heidi’ s honesty In her own title as the loudest soprano was also impressive. She knew the truth.
Thank you, Joan! Hildi had plenty of chutzpah, that’s for sure!
Love it! Now where have I heard of someone before who was terrible but thought everything they did was wonderful. Can’t quite put my finger on who it is, but I recall they thought the sun radiated from them so much that they even more orange makeup.
Hmm. I wonder who that could be! 😉
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