Mondays on Memory Lane: 1917, MY GREAT AUNT SINGS FOR THE SOLDIERS OF WORLD WAR I – On this Veterans Day, it is important to remember the soldiers of all nations. I have discovered this photo of my great aunt, Anny Cornelius, in a German hospital in 1917 during World War I. She was only 17 at the time and already a gifted singer, she went on to sing lead roles in the Berlin opera.
From what I gather, she took her fellow class mates and volunteered to sing for the wounded soldiers. Whatever country is fighting, music is always used to try to heal the soldiers spirits. When you look at the faces of the wounded soldiers, you can see – there are really no winners in any war, the only winner is the human spirit.
Royalty had proposed marriage to Anny. She could have any suitor she wanted. Her sister Amahlie married, Anny…was married to the passion of her music – her career. She had music in her soul! She sang for the soldiers during the bombing attacks in Berlin. He presence lit up a room. Her laugh was a rolling waterfall of notes. The life of every party, which is why Callas would always invite her.
The letters from Callas are all gone. Anny was one of the first people to recognizably die of Alzheimer’s disease. Although at first it was assumed it was old age senility. She retired in a home for opera singers paid for by the German state. My mother, her sister and I lived in New York. We couldn’t be by her side all the time in her last months. Mom supported the family, ‘oma/grandma’ took care of me. Her neighbors knew of the Callas treasures and talked her out of them. When we arrived in her last days, most everything was gone. All we have are a few distant remnants of her glorious past. She is hard to find on the internet although some opera buffs have found recordings of her we have yet to find ourselves. We only own one record and her publicity photos. Here she is at the height of her career. Anny was my Auntie Mame to the fullest. Grande dame, dramatic, ultra chic and worldly – she taught me how to “live”. Anny Cornelius – today is her birthday.