" ... Sorry, but we cannot engage you into the choir, because in the higher register your face is getting all red ...."
(Audition at the Prague National Theatre - 1892)
from the book - 'Karel Burian - "My memories" - 1913|
Karel Burian was born in Rousinov, Bohemia on January 12, 1870, died in Senomaty, (Czechoslovakia), September 25, 1924.
After an unsuccessful audition at Prague National Theatre, 22 years old Burian (teacher Wallerstein) left Prague
and was trying to get an engagement in other European theatres. Very soon he found an engagement in Reval,
then Aachen and Cologne. At Reval he sang Manrico
(Il Trovatore), Faust and Lohengrin. Then came Berlin, Cologne again (there he sings this time with his brother,
baritone Emil Burian). Despite success, Burian was still trying to get back to the Prague National Theatre
to sing Smetana, Dvorak etc. After a strugle, he was finally engaged there in title role of Smetana's Dalibor
and on July 28th. 1900 came his great performance under conductor Kovarovic. But it was bitter-sweet victory.
He was used to sing Tristans, Tannhausers, Siegfrieds and suddenly he was asked to sing the Prince in Dvorak's
Rusalka, role which didn't suit his voice. He said 'no' and the war was on again.
Again, he left Prague and was engaged in Dresden, where he sang his beloved Wagner, and again he is Tristan,
In 1905 he sang Wagner roles in that theatre 128 times and he was regarded most famous Tristan of his day.
In 1898 - Hamburg, and critics and the opera world realized, he was the best Wagner tenor.
For the next 20 years he sang Tristan, both Siegfrieds, Siegmund, Parsifal, Loge and Beethoven's Florestan in Fidelio.
After Dresden, it was Berlin's turn, where he was Don José to Emmy Destinn's Carmen.
And from there came London, Vienna and Budapest.
In Dresden's 1905/6 season, he sang R. Strauss' Salome (world premiere) (Herod) and again in Paris with Emmy Destinn.
Than came Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and in November 30, 1906 he made his debut as Tannhäuser
at the Metropolitan Opera, under Arturo Toscanini. In 1908 - Bayreuth, Burian sings Parsifal, for
the first time in Bayreuth. Then came again London, Paris, Brussels, and Budapest.
Subsequently he joined the Vienna Opera and made a brief appearance in Prague (but only in the German Theatre).
He was singing in Italian, German, Hungarian, French, but not in Czech.
There was nowhere to sing, nobody wanted him there. In November 1910, Burian left Dresden and came to Prague.
In 1911 he finally sang Tristan on the stage of the National Theatre. But this is for a very short time.
The singer had a problem with his voice and the doctor said no to further performances. And this was the end.
After World War I., he went back to sing in Budapest, Vienna and the Balkans. Once again before his death,
he sang on the stage of the Prague National Theatre. In 1922 he had just one concert there. Two years later,
he was dead. His records were made rather casually, only partially confirm his reputation.