b. Fredericka Scheff Yarger, 30 August 1879, Vienna, Austria-Hungary, d. 8 April 1954, New York City, New York, USA. Scheff’s mother was Hortense Scheff Yarger, soprano with Vienna’s Imperial Opera. She also appeared in grand opera before going to the USA to play on Broadway. Scheff was in Babette (1904), by Victor Herbert and Harry B. Smith , in which her songs included ‘Letters I Write All the Day’, ‘Be Kind To Poor Pierrot’, ‘Where The Fairest Flowers Are Blooming’, and a duet with Richie Ling, ‘I’ll Bribe The Stars’. She was in The Two Roses (1904), music by Ludwig Englander, book and lyrics by Stanislaus Stange. Meanwhile, Herbert was so impressed that he had written Mlle. Modiste especially for her. This opened on Christmas Day 1905 at the Knickerbocker Theatre where it ran for 202 performances. Scheff was also in revivals in 1906, 1907, 1913 and 1929. With music by Herbert and lyrics and libretto by Henry Blossom Jnr. , the songs sung by Scheff included ‘Hats Make The Woman’, ‘The Mascot Of The Troop’, ‘The Nightingale And The Star’ and the perennially popular ‘Kiss Me Again’. She was in The Prima Donna (1908), another Herbert-Blossom collaboration, singing ‘Dream Love (’Twas Only Dreaming)’, ‘A Soldier’s Love!’ and ‘Espagnola’. Scheff was in a revival of The Mikado (1910) and played Rose in The Duchess (1911), with music by Herbert, book and lyrics by Joseph Herbert and Smith, in which her songs included ‘Cupid Tell Me Why (Love That’s Sincere)’. She was in Pretty Mrs. Smith (1914), which was filmed the following year, and was in the drama Sherlock Holmes (1928).
Scheff toured extensively on the vaudeville circuit throughout the late 10s and 20s and in the 30s was with Billy Rose , appearing in 1939 at his New York World’s Fair extravaganza. She was briefly in the 1943 film Follies Girl. In the late 40s Scheff was back on Broadway with a role in the play Bravo! (1948). In the early 50s she made some appearances on television, including several editions of The Ed Sullivan Show, a 1951 production of Mlle. Modiste (its title expanded to Mademoiselle Modiste) starring her in her defining role of Fifi, and a 1953 Armstrong Circle Theatre production, Recording Date. Shortly before her death, Scheff put in an appearance in a 1954 This Is Your Life that paid tribute to Mack Sennett.