Arthur Preuss, born Feb. 2nd, 1878, in Königsberg, got his first engagement in 1899 at no less a
theatre than the Vienna Hofoper (now the Staatsoper), and from Gustav Mahler, who was then the
Hofoper's manager. Preuss was to sing primarily comprimario parts, occasionally substituting a
colleague in a leading role such as Alfredo or Almaviva. Despite fierce competition (Vienna's
beloved comprimario tenor was Fritz Schrödter), Preuss eventually gained great popularity;
his most famous achievements were David in Meistersinger, Léopold in La Juive, and Pedrillo
in Entführung aus dem Serail. He retired from the Hofoper ensemble as early as February 1915,
after a dispute with the notoriously impolite new manager, Hans Gregor.
He didn't take a fix engagement anymore, but continued singing as a guest, mostly at the
Vienna Volksoper, until 1930. He was one of the first opera singers to appear on air,
and sang also in several films. (If anybody happens to own a radio or film recording of
Preuss, it would be one of my foremost desires as a collector to have a copy.)
In those later years, his voice had become darker, enabling him to sing Fra Diavolo or
Max. He was also a composer. He died August 20th, 1944, in Vienna.
That a tenor as fine as Preuss would sing primarily comprimario parts is incredible nowadays;
his voice may have had less power and range than Gustav Mahler expected from a leading singer,
but had he lived today, his would have been a world career. Maybe that even then, his career
would have been more brillant had he just sounded "more German" - his style was very Italianate
for a Viennese public of 1910, I guess (note the striking similarity of his Dei miei
bollenti spiriti with de Lucia's).
It would be worth documenting his entire recorded Pedrillo output, which is a terrific and still
It's from a less-known 1934 Joseph Schmidt film, "Wenn du jung bist, gehört dir die Welt", and Preuss' role is that of the comic
tenor. He's playing an elderly Kammersänger performing at an elegant private party, and ironically, what he's singing is one of
Schmidt's greatest hits, from an earlier film, "Ein Lied geht um die Welt" (My song goes round the world). Preuss' task in the
role of the Kammersänger is to produce a complete failure, musically and vocally. Schmidt is playing the usual
son-of-the-housekeeper-gifted-with-a-great-voice-but-no-money, and takes over from the quickly exhausted Kammersänger,
making this sort of a Preuss-Schmidt duet (of sorts!).
|Arthur Preuss sings|| Die Entführung aus dem Serail: Vivat Bacchus, with Wilhelm Hesch|
I would like to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recordings and notes.