The life of Alma Mahler-Werfel

Let us tell you the story of one impressive woman – Alma Mahler-Werfel

Alma Mahler-Werfel is a rather controversial woman. Her entourage described her as ‘femme fatale’. They saw her as a strong-headed, popular woman that could make a man go crazy – in a rather negative way.

Alma was born in August 1879 as Alma Schindler. From childhood on she had a strong connection to art. She knew how to play the piano, though was rather fascinated by composing her own musical works. Famous Viennese artist like Gustav Klimt were part of her close friends. They influenced her love of art, literature, and music.

The marriage to Gustav Mahler

In Berta Zuckerkandlsshe crossed paths with her husband-to- be Gustav Mahler. The composer married her in 1902 in the Karlskirche. This marked the start of a rather turbulent marriage. It didn’t take long for the married couple to grow apart. Only after hearing of Alma’s affair with the architect Walter Gropius, he tried to rekindle their love. Despite asking her in a 20-page long letter to stop composing at the beginning of their marriage, Gustav encouraged her to pick it up once again. In 1910, four of her works premiered. One of them was even played in New York. The pair had two children, but only Anna made it to adulthood.

Gustav Mahler died in 1911. It didn’t take long till Alma was courted by other men. In 1915 she married Walter Gropius, though their marriage was ill-fated since Gropius was sent to the front. Alma had a daughter with Walter and got pregnant with a boy, son of Franz Werfel.

While Alma was still married to Walter, she started an affair with a young writer named Franz. After her divorce from Walter in 1920 she moved in with Franz, and they got married in 1929. The couple owned a house in Vienna’s 19th district. There, she had her own parlour, a place for important artists and intellectuals.

Away from Vienna

Alma and Franz emigrated shortly before the second world war started to France, in 1940 they made their way to New York. There, she died in the year 1964. Her remains have been brought back to Vienna and Alma found her last rest in the Grinzinger cemetery. She lays only a few graves away from her first husband, Gustav Mahler.

Vienna is known for spreading rumours. That’s why many of the stories about Alma are focused on her affairs. Nowadays however, we don’t have the right to judge her nor her motives for living such a turbulent lifestyle.

If you are interested in Alma’s story, make sure to buy a ticket for Maxi Blaha’s theatre play “Alma Who”. More information about the play can be found here. You can also book our tour Powerful women of Vienna. On this fascinating tour, our guides Tatjana or Kathi will tell you the stories of some of Vienna’s most incredible women.

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