Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Celebrating Hermann Uhde's Birthday

Hermann Uhde

Two great baritones in history have a lot in common, although one is sadly less known. The life and career of Hermann Uhde has much in common with the great baritone Leonard Warren. The two men were born just three years apart and both died tragically young during performances of opera just five years apart. Both men also had huge successes singing Verdi and Wagner.

Warren's death in 1960 is well-known in opera lore, having died shortly after singing the  line "Urna fatale del mio destino." In 1965, Uhde died onstage of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s Faust III in Copenhagen.

Born in Bremen to a German father and an American mother, Hermann Uhde's training and career was primarily in Germany. He made his debut as a baritone at the “Deutsches Theater im Haag” in 1942. In 1945 he was taken as a  prisoner-of-war and did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich where he became a member of the ensemble.

He gained great success in roles such as Mandryka, Gunther and Telramund, in which he was particularly admired. The artist was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in Rheingold, Telramund and Melot.  He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed a superb Wozzeck  at the Met in English opposite Eleanor Steber.

He created several roles, including Creon in Orff’s Antigonae, the baritone roles in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Wagner-Régeny’s Das Bergwerk zu Falun.

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  1. A great voice coupled with a handsome face. too bad this was not video. I'd love to have seen his stage presence.

  2. "Both men also had huge successes singing Verdi and Wagner." The only Verdi role I know of that Uhde sang was the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos. I believe Warren may have sung the Herald in Lohengrin early in his career. But these roles hardly constitute "huge successes" for Uhde in Verdi and Warren in Wagner.

  3. Uhde had a fabulously rich lower baritone voice but yet had a bit of the shimmer usually more present in tenors - really epitomized chiaroscuro IMO. His post war career being a mere 11 or so years probably greatly contributed to his not being known that well these says