In 1960 Alma finishes her famous autobiography "And the Bridge is Love". (My life was beautiful. God allowed me to know some masterpieces of our time before they left the hands of their creators. And if I was permitted to hold for an instant your stirrups, my glorious knights, my life was justified and blessed. Everything, I feel, is simultaneous. Time does not pass. My fathers death is as alive in me as Gustav Mahlers or Franz Werfels. There is to me no past apart from the present, but, as the poet has written, there is a land of the living and a land of the dead, and the bridge is love!)
In 1962 Alma attends rehearsals of Gustav Mahler's 8th symphony under the direction of Leonard Bernstein in New York. She lives to witness the resurrection of Mahler's compositions, which are then initiated by Leonard Bernstein, and whose recordings are also used as a soundtrack in "Alma".
On December 11th 1964, Alma dies in her apartment in Manhattan, where she had spent the last decade of her life. In the 85 years of her life, Alma MahlerWerfel experienced two World Wars and changes in civilization as had never previously occurred.
A malicious obituary was given to her by American songwriter Tom Lehrer:
"The loveliest girl in Vienna was Alma, the smartest as well.
Once you picked her up on your antenna, youd never be free of her spell.
Her lovers were many and varied from the day she begun her beguine
there were three famous ones whom she married, and god knows how many between!
Alma, tell us: all modern women are jealous,
which of your magical wands got you Gustav and Walter and Franz?"
The New York Times, Sunday, December 13, 1964
Alma M. Werfel: Widow of writer Franz Werfel. She was also married to Mahler and Gropius
Mrs. Alma Mahler Werfel, widow of the writer Franz Werfel and earlier of the composer Gustav Mahler, died Friday in her apartment at 120 East 73d Street. Her age was 85. She had also been married to Walter Gropius, the architect.
Mrs. Werfel, who was once described as "The most beautiful girl in Vienna," recalled in her autobiography that she had always been attracted to genius. She noted that she had once confided to her first husband, Mahler, that what she really loved in a man were his achievements.
"The greater the achievements," she told the great German composer, "the more I love him." And genius also seemed to have been attracted to Mrs. Werfel.
The former Alma Schindler, the daughter of Emil J. Schindler, a landscape painter in Austria, she grew up in Vienna surrounded by art and artists. Her intellect, which was nurtured by her brilliant father, complimented her beauty.
She was a 21-year-old music student in 1902 when she met Mahler, who was 41 years old and director of the Court Opera House. He had already made his mark in the music world.
After a short courtship they were married. Alma traveled with her husband on conducting tours in Europe and the United States. They had two daughters, but only one, Anna, survived. She became a sculptor.
While still married to the composer, she met Walter Gropius, then a little known architect. She described him in her diary as an "extraordinarily handsome German," and added that the night of their first meeting wore into sunrise.
"There remained no doubt," she wrote, "that Walter Gropius was in love with me and expected me to love him."
Mahler found out about their affair, brought the architect to their home and asked Alma to make a choice. She chose to remain with the compooser, but Gropius continued to write love letters to her.
She said in her book "And the Bridge is Love," published in 1958, that Mahler read Gropius's correspondence and "wrote beautiful poems about it."
Mahler died in 1911 and his widow returned to Vienna to live with her parents. One day her father told her of "a poor starving genius" who painted. Later he brought Oskar Kokoschka home to paint her picture. She wrote that after he had finished sketching her he stood up, embraced her and walked out. He then started sending love letters and they became lovers. The affair lasted three years until Kokoschka joined the German Army. Shortly afterward Alma began corresponding with Gropius, who had become successful, and they were married in August 1915. They had a daughter, Manon, who died in her teens.
While still married to Gropius she met Franz Werfel and had a son by him. The child died in infancy. Gropius and Alma finally agreed to divorce in 1918. She then moved in with Werfel, and they were married in July, 1929.
She also wrote in her diary that she was pursued by other geniuses. The following was dated 1926 and referred to a conversation she had with Gerhart Hauptmann, the German drammatist and poet: " 'It's a pity,'he said to me, 'that the two of us don't have a child together. That would have been something You, you my great love....' " 'In another life,' he once told me, 'we two must be lovers. I make my reservation now.' "His wife heard it. 'I'm sure Alma will be booked up there too.' she said flippantly. "He and I only smiled...." She also wrote that other great men who were in love with her were Dr. Paul Kammerer, the biologist, and Ossip Gabrilowitsch, the Russian pianist and conductor who later married Mark Twain's daughter.
Werfel and Alma fled Nazi Germany in the late nineteen-thirties. Their experiences prompting Franz to write "The Song of Bernadette" and "Jacobowsky and the Colonel." They came to the United States in 1940 and settled in California, where Werfel died in 1945. She moved to New York in 1952.
Besides "And the Bridge is Love," Mrs. Werfel wrote "Gustav Mahler: Memories and Letters."
Alma Mahler was three times in New York between 21 December 1907 and 8 April 1911, together with her husband Gustav Mahler who worked at the Metropolitan Opera till he became chef of his own orchestra, the Philharmonic Society of New York.
21 December: Gustav Mahler and his wife Alma arrive in New York and settle in a suite at the Majestic Hotel. Mahlers arrival in New York is preceeded by a flurry of publicity that surpasses even the New Yorkers sensation-seeking best.
See also Mahler and the Met at www.metopera.org/history/week-990816.html
Mahler conducts performances of Tristan und Isolde. (The influence of the new conductor was felt and heard in the whole spirit of the performance. Its comparable with the best that New York has known. NYT), Don Giovanni (January), Die Walküre, Siegfried (February), Fidelio (March).
23 April: Mahler leaves New York.
21 November: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York, where they stay at the Savoy. Mahler conducts three concerts with the New York Symphony Orchestra, including his own 2nd Symphony, and performances of Wagners Tristan und Isolde.
Mahler conducts Le nozze di Figaro in New York, Brooklyn and Philadelphia. In February singer Marcella Sembrich bids farewell to the Met with Mahler conducting. Mahler also conducts Fidelio at the Met. March: Mahler conducts a trial concert with the New York Philharmonic. 9 April: Mahler sets sail from New York to Paris, where he sits for sculptor Auguste Rodin.
19 October: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York. Mahler conducts 44 concerts with NYPO, including a series of six historical concerts. Notable works included in the programmes are Mahler's own 1st Symphony, Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel, and Rakhmaninov's 3rd Piano Concerto with the composer himself at the piano. 16 December: Mahler conducts his own 1st Symphony. December: Bote & Bock publish a pocket score of 7th Symphony.
January: Mahler conducts Beethoven's 5th Piano Concerto with Ferrucio Busoni as soloist; the occasion is a triumphant success. 4th historical concert, including Mahlers Kindertotenlieder (Songs on the Death of Children). Pianist Josef Weiss throws a tantrum and walks out of a rehearsal with Mahler. February: first American tour (New Haven, Springfield, Providence and Boston). 5 April: Mahler sets sail from New York.
25 October: Mahler and Alma arrive again in New York. Mahler conducts 47 concerts, including seven in Brooklyn and eight on tour. Among the works performed are his own 4th Symphony, and works of American composers such as George Whitefield Chadwick's Melpomene Overture, Stanford's Irish Symphony, Elgar's Sea Pictures, Charles Martin Loeffler's La Villanelle du diable and Henry Kimball Hadley's The Culprit Fay. November: concert in Brooklyn. December: second American tour, visiting Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica; Christmas and New Year spent nursing sore throat.
Mahler conducts all-Wagner programme in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. 21 February: final concert in New York. 24 February: Mahler falls ill with slow endocarditis, initially diagnosed as influenza. 8 April: Mahler and Alma sail from New York on the same vessel as Ferrucio Busoni and Stefan Zweig.
18 May: Mahler dies in Vienna at 23:05.