I’ve really had three.  The first one messed me up but good, so I never mention her name.  The last one was Dr. Greg Broughton of the University of Georgia, who was saddled with me during my doctoral studies, and I shall write about him and the wonderful lessons we had together on another occasion.  My formative teacher was Inge Manski Lundeen, who was born in Berlin (December 18, 1923) and died in 2001 in Chicago.

Before she married and moved to Atlanta, Inge Manski grew up literally backstage at the Metropolitan Opera -- the old Met, not Lincoln Center.  Her mother was the dramatic soprano Dorothée Manski, a well-known Sieglinda and Isolde, who realized in 1928 that Germany was no place for a nice Polish girl, even if she sang Wagner at Bayreuth, Berlin, and other major houses.  So Madam Manski, her husband, and their daughter sailed for New York.  I think that Inge said they sailed on the SS Île de France and that there were fleas.  When they arrived in America, Mdm. Manski lied about Inge’s age, making her a year younger, for reasons one can only imagine.  Years later when Inge applied for Social Security, she had to get her birth certificate from Berlin, and that was when she found out she was a year older than she thought.

I don’t actually know her father’s name.  I guess Manski was her mother’s married name since Inge was called Inge Manski.  He was a medical doctor, but Inge said he did not want to take the licensing examination in English, so he played violin in the Met orchestra.  He published several songs under the name Walter Bransen, and I have a few of them.  If anyone out there has or comes across some of his sheet music, I would love to have a chance to buy copies of the ones I don’t have.

Imagine being ten years old and having the German singers at the Met ask you to hide behind the curtains and prompt them because they didn’t trust the Italian prompters.  That is how Inge earned her, as she called it, pin money.  The whole family worked at the Met; well, Inge was not supposed to be working, but by the time she was a teen-ager she was being groomed along with Patrice Munsel as one of the Met’s glamourous young singers, and she sang a number of the smaller parts.  She was in Estelle Liebling’s studio until Mdm. Manski decided that her training was not right and pulled her out.  Eventually she went to Curtis and studied with Elizabeth Schumann. 

I believe that Inge is the only Met singer who ever had a stage director threaten to tell her mother if she did not do as he said.  It was Rhinegold, and he was flying dancers as the Rhine maidens, so the singers were supposed to sing from inside a black box in the orchestra pit.  Inge didn’t want to get into the box, but she did.  Mdm. Manski was the Witch in Hansel und Gretel for the very first Texaco Broadcast from the Met, and Inge got to sing with her in another production of that opera at the Chicago Lyric Opera; mom was again the Witch and daughter was the Sandman.  

Inge was on the cover of Opera News three times, once in a costume shot and once in a tour photo.  The third picture was her wedding party, which was a real Met affair.  Family friend Lauriz Melchior gave her away because by that time her own father had passed away.  She knew all the famous singers of the thirties and forties, and I believe she said that she sang about 40 roles at the Met.  One was Siebel in Faust, where she pranced out on stage with her flowers, her feet slipped out from under her, and she fell right on her rear on that hallowed stage.  She sang a lot of modern parts because, as she said, “I could just hear them.” 

She also had roles on Broadway in Lady in the Dark and One Touch of Venus.  Mdm. Manski made her leave because the money was too good, and she would be spoiled.  She toured with the USO during World War II, and I remember so clearly her saying how proud she felt during that period to be an American, as were so many of the German immigrants in the New York music scene.  Another example was Werner Klemperer, son of the famous conductor, who was the only young man Inge was allowed to date (Mdm. Manski approved of his family).  He played many Nazi’s during his Hollywood career, but only if they were ridiculous.  Feeling ran strong.

She was a remarkable lady, a wonderful singer – there is a CD of a Faust with Dorothy Kirsten with Inge as Siebel that you can find quite easily -- and an incredible voice teacher.  So as not to let this post turn into a novel, I’ll write more about her teaching methods later.