September 14, 2010

Margery Booth

Courtesy of a friend on Facebook (thank you Cori!) comes a fascinating article on Margery Booth, a British mezzo who sang in Berlin during WWII and carried government secrets during the height of Hitler's madness.  The photograph below is the only known image of her, which is being sold at auction.



Margery Booth (1905-1952)


Booth's Wikipedia page hardly has any additional information beyond her heroism which is amazing.  My curious mind wants to know what she sang and who she studied with, what was her artistic life like before and after the war, and did Booth teach and have students?  And how is it that she has been forgotten until now? 

Please leave a comment or email me if you have additional information.  

6 comments:

  1. I had never heard of this woman, a Lancashire lass, who was born in Wigan which is near my home town. Wonderful story on Wikipedia but short. Have you tried the Imperial War Museum in London?

    ReplyDelete
  2. As far as I can tell by few archives of her performances, Booth never sang anything much in the way of a major role, but mostly only comprimario roles and smaller roles, such as the Shepherd boy at the beginning of the third act of Puccini's TOSCA. She sang Madalene in RIGOLETTO, Flosshilde in GOETTERDAEMERUNG. I have the TOSCA recording and she did have a pleasant voice. I don't believe, though, she was a "renowned Covent Garden opera star" as is reported in many of the stories circulated since September 10th when Mullock's announced the Booth picture in Lot 400 to be auctioned off on September 30th.

    Mighty good PR, though, for the potential sale of Booth's picture. Other pictures of the camp are in Lot 399.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Margery was born in Wigan in 1905 and made her Covent Garden debut in 1936 at age 31. It was there that she met a very wealthy German named Dr. Egon Strohm. She married Strohm a year later in Southport, and he asked her if she would come to Germany to live and work after the wedding. She agreed, not knowing what she was getting herself into three years after Hitler took office. It was suggested that Strohm got her an audition at Bayreuth and the Berlin Opera, where she sang in performances that starred Kirsten Flagstad and Max Lorenz. She was protected, as a Brit, by Hitler, Goebbels and opera director Heinz Tietjen from persecution as enemy of the state. In a very secure position, she was invited to entertain captured British troops at Freigegeben Stalag IIID, a place where Germans brought those British prisoners whom they believed would defect and assist the Germans in their plot. Margery gave performances at the camp and met countryman John Brown (see his posthumous book, In Durance Vile). Margery agreed to help Brown take intelligence about traitors outside of the Stalag, since Margery was allowed to roam about Berlin freely. Her work did pay off during and after the war years, but she has never been properly recognized. After the war, the word had gotten out that Mergery was herself a traitor, working for the Germans, which was of course, not true. She fled London and went to New York, where even as she was departing England she was already suffering from cancer. She died in 1952.

    Sorry if this is not anything new, but it is what I have learned over the past nine days.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thank you for your comment! The information goes a long way in filling in the blanks.

    ReplyDelete
  5. This is a few years after the above but I am now making a film about her so please visit www.MargeryBooth.com and email me at franz@imperialfilmproductions.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment, Franz von Toskana.

      Delete

I welcome your comments.