04 February 2012

Richard Tauber

Austrian opera singer Richard Tauber (1891-1948) was one of the world's finest Mozartian tenors of the 20th century. He became the 'epitome of Viennese charm' with such popular musical films as Das Land des Lächelns/The Land of Smiles (1930) and Melodie der Liebe/Right to Happiness (1932).

Richard Tauber
Dutch postcard. Photo: Filma Film. Publicity still for Ich glaub nie mehr an eine Frau/Never Trust a Woman (1930, Max Reichmann).

Illegitimate Son
Richard Tauber was born in Linz, Austria in 1891. He was the illegitimate son of soubrette Elisabeth Seiffert and actor and theatre director Richard Anton Tauber. He was given the name Richard Denemy (Denemy being his mother's maiden name). The boy was raised by his mother until he was seven and later by his father, who officially gave Richard his name. At the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt, he studied piano, composition and conducting, subjects which stood Tauber in good stead in later years. He was heard singing by the well-known voice teacher Professor Carl Beines, who encouraged him to sing more quietly and to interprete the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. In 1913 he made his stage debut as Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte/The Magic Flute with the help of his father, who had become the Intendant of both the Stadt-Theater in Chemnitz. He was quickly engaged for major roles at the Dresden Opera, where he stayed until 1926. Then he joined the Vienna Staatsoper. In these years, he worked up a rich repertoire of roles in such operas as Don Giovanni, Tosca, and Carmen. Franz Lehár composed several operettas specifically designed for Tauber's voice, including Der Zarewitsch (1926), Friederike (1928), and Das Land des Lächelns/The Land of Smiles (1929). Tauber made over seven hundred gramophone records, mainly for the Odeon Records label. His recordings include opera, operetta, art song, popular tunes and novelties. He also tested the then new talking pictures in such popular musical films as Ich küsse Ihre Hand, Madame/I Kiss Your Hand Madame (1929, Robert Land) with Marlene Dietrich, Das Land des Lächelns/The Land of Smiles (1930, Max Reichmann), and Melodie der Liebe/Right to Happiness (1932, Georg Jacoby). Richard Tauber was elegant in appearance. He had a slight squint in his right eye and disguised it by wearing a monocle which, when accompanied by a top hat, added to the elegant effect. For many people he became the epitome of Viennese charm.

Marta Eggerth, Richard Tauber
Dutch postcard by JosPe, no. 468. With Marta Eggerth.

Richard Tauber
French postcard in the Europe series, no. 997, ca. 1932. Photo: Emelka Konzern.

Land Without Music
In 1933, Richard Tauber was assaulted by a group of Nazi Brownshirts because he was part Jewish on his father's side. Despite his fame and popularity, he decided to leave Hitler's Germany for his native Austria. He often worked in London where he appeared in some musical films. He earned fine notices for his portrayal of composer Franz Schubert in Blossom Time (1934, Paul L. Stein), as well as for his work in Heart's Desire (1935, Paul L. Stein), and Land Without Music (1936, Walter Forde). He married his British co-star Diana Napier. They appeared together again in the Leoncavallo tragedy Pagliacci (1936, Karl Grune). In 1938, he made his London operatic debut in Die Zauberflöte under Sir Thomas Beecham. Earlier that year, Nazi Germany annexed Austria and Tauber left Austria for good. Despite receiving lucrative offers from the USA, he remained in the UK for the entire war. In 1947, Tauber sought help for an aggravated cough which was subsequently diagnosed as lung cancer. The Vienna State Opera was in London for a short season at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden and they invited Tauber to sing one performance with his old company. He gave a bravura performance as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni and fulfilled this engagement the following day at the Camden Theatre, having begun and ended his formidable career performing Mozart. Three days later, he entered a London hospital to have his left lung removed, but it was too late. Richard Tauber died of complications in January 1948. He was 56. In the musical bio Du bist die Welt für mich/You Are the World for Me (1953, Ernst Marischka) Rudolf Schock acted and sang the role of Tauber.

Richard Tauber
German postcard by Odeon. Photo: Ernst Schneider, Berlin.

Sources: Gary Brumburgh (IMDb), Trevor Peak (Find A Grave), Wikipedia and IMDb.

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