Henrietta Treffz


Henrietta Treffz

Henrietta Treffz, born Henrietta Chalupetzky (1 July 1818 – 8 April 1878), was best known as the first wife of Johann Strauss II and a well-known mezzo-soprano, appearing in England in 1849 to great acclaim.

Biography

Henrietta was the only child of a Viennese goldsmith and studied music in Vienna, adopting her mother's maiden name, Treffz, for professional purposes. Her career took her around Austria, as well as Germany and France, but it was in England that she first appeared with Johann Strauss I in concerts that would bring her numerous accolades and felicitations. The 'Musical World', published in London on 5 May, 1849, noted her talents: "mezzo-soprano voice of beautiful quality and remarkable for freshness and equality of tone throughout the register".

Between 1841 and 1852, she bore seven illegitimate children, and around 1843, she was the mistress of the wealthy banker Moritz Todesco, with whom she remained for the next eighteen years. Todesco, a music enthusiast, played host to many private soirées in the salon of his Viennese home where many eminent prominent and influential personalities of art, music and literature were present to grace the functions. She probably was introduced to Johann Strauss II during the winter of 1861 or 1862, although it was likely that they met sixteen years before at one of the theatre-balls held at the Sträussel-Säle in Josefstadt.

On 27 August 1862, Henrietta (also known fondly as 'Jetty'), married Johann Strauss II in the Stephansdom in Vienna, a marriage which was beneficial to Strauss as her support and keen musical and business sense, influenced his works and promoted them to a more superior standard. His works around that time revealed his finest creative period, as she worked together with him, as a music-copyist and private secretary, as well as what we will be familiar today as a manager in the music world.

Their marriage was not without skepticisms. The Viennese populace, long swayed by Strauss' graceful waltzes, were shocked at the announcement of their marriage, as she was forty-four when they married, about seven years older than Strauss. Even his brother Josef Strauss expressed his concern at the match, although he eventually accepted that she was 'indispensable in the home. She writes up all accounts, copies out orchestral parts and sees to everything in the kitchen with such efficiency and kindness that is admirable' in a letter dated 2 May 1869 written to his wife, Caroline.

Perhaps Treffz's most important contribution to effectively tap Strauss' creative powers was her constant persuasion towards his eventual choice of writing operettas as well as other stage works. Such a product would be the popular operetta Die Fledermaus. Further, her encouragement for Strauss to apply for the coveted "KK Hofballmusik-direktor" post eventually bore positive results, as he was awarded the honorary position in 1863.

Jetty Treffz lived long enough to see her husband claim a small but encouraging success in the operetta business, however, on 8 April 1878, she suffered a heart attack and died at 11.30 p.m., the cause being reported as a disturbing letter from one of her illegitimate sons. She often spoke of herself as a 'poor, old cripple' as well as suffering from painful illnesses in the last years of her life. She was buried in the local Hietzing cemetery, although Strauss was absent at the funeral, and all arrangements were left to brother Eduard Strauss. Strauss himself remarried seven weeks later, to Ernestine Henriette Angelika Dittrich on 28 May 1878.


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