Alfred Piccaver

(1884 - 1958)

Picture of Alfred Piccaver in La Gioconda

Picture of Alfred Piccaver

Picture of Alfred Piccaver
Before he reached the age of two his parents emigrated to the United States of America and took out American citizenship. {iccaver was trained as an electrical engineer but he had a talent for singing and in 1905 he enrolled at the Metropolitan School of Opera. The school's director Heinrich Conried recognised his considerable vocal ability and in 1907 sent the young Piccaver to Prague, where he studied with Ludmilla Prochazka-Neumann (1872–1954).

His studies led to a three-year contract with the Deutsches Landes-Theater in Prague where he made his debut on 9 September 1907 in Otto Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor. In the following three years, he sang in operas by Flotow, Verdi, Wagner, Mozart, Puccini and Gounod. This variety stood him in good stead, because in 1910, he was invited to appear as a guest in Mattia Battistini’s touring company that was performing in Prague. He must have impressed Battistini because Piccaver was persuaded to travel with the company to their next venue in Vienna where the Vienna Hofoper showed an interest in him.

However, he continued to sing with the Prague company for the remainder of his contract and it was not until 6 September 1912 that he gave his first performance with the Vienna State Opera as a permanent member.

His roles included Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, Canio, Radames, Florestan, Lensky and Walther. He made a large number of recordings by both the acoustic and electrical processes and many of these are available on CD reissues.

Piccaver loved Vienna and the Viennese way of life, so much so that when the director of the MET, Giulio Gatti-Casazza, made a lucrative offer for him to appear at the MET he turned it down. He was never asked again.

In return, the Viennese were devoted to ‘Picci’, as he was affectionately known. When the First World War broke out Piccaver as an American citizen was unaffected, though when the United States joined the war in 1917 he was found trying to leave the country but was spared internment if he agreed to continue singing at the Opera.

After the war his career at the Vienna State Opera was interrupted by appearances in Chicago in 1923, 1924 and 1925 and at Covent Garden, in 1924, the only year in which he appeared at this house.

In 1923, for reasons that are not clear, he claimed British nationality as he was entitled to do as a result of his place of birth, though Alfred Piccaver always considered himself an American. On 31 December 1931 his contract with The Vienna State Opera was terminated as a result of a dispute over his salary. He continued to live in Vienna and to make guest appearances in opera in Austria and abroad but with the political situation in Austria worsening he decided to return to Britain in 1937. He made some records and concert appearances in London and even appeared on the BBC’s fledgling television service in 1939.

After the war he returned to Vienna for the re-opening of the Vienna State Opera House in 1955 and decided to stay. He died in his favourite city on 23 September 1958. The Austrian government gave him a state funeral. He is buried in the Cimetry Zentralfriedhof of Vienna.
Reference

Alfred Piccaver sings O Sole mio
In RA Format

Alfred Piccaver sings La Gioconda: Cielo e mar
In RA Format

Alfred Piccaver sings Lucia di Lammermoor: Tu che a dio spiegasti
In RA Format
I would like to thank Lynn Samohel for the picture (second from top).
I would like to thank Thomas Silverboerg for the recordings and picture (bottom).
Discography

Gramophone Electric, 1928-1930
227BV   The Rosary                               35070
228BV   Die Meistersinger: Am stillen Herd       95531
229BV   Die Meistersinger: Morgenlich            95531
230BV   Turandot: Nessun dorma                   95353
231BV   Fidelio: Gott, welch dunkel I            95482
232BV   Fidelio: Gott, welch dunkel II           95482
233BV   Aida: O waere ich erkoren                35072
234BV   Manon: Ich bin allein ..Flieh'           95353
235BV   Werther: Was bin ich aufgewacht          95353
236BV   Andrea Chenier: Come un bel di di        95354
1031BM  La Fanciulla del West: Ch'ella mi        66768
1032BM  Madama Butterfly: Addio fiorito          66768
        with Thedor Scheidl
1033BM  Turandot: Non piangerer Liu              95352
1035˝BM L'Africana: Mi batte il cor              66769
1038BM  Il Trovatore: Ah si ben mio              66771
1040BM  Tosca: Recondita armonia                 66770
1041BM  Tosca: E lucevan le stelle               66770
1042BM  La Gioconda: Cielo e mar                 66768
1043BM  La Forza del Destino: O tu che           66771
1044BM  Kashmiri love song                       66772
1045BM  For you alone                            66772
1475BM  La Bohčme: O soave fanciulla             66859
        with Margit Angerer
1476BM  Lohengrin: Wenn ich im Kampfe            66833
        with Margit Angerer
1477BM  Lohengrin: Das süsse Lied verhallt       66833
        with Margit Angerer
1478BM  Tosca: Qual'occhio al mondo              95462
1479BM  Tosca: Amaro sol per te                  95462
        with Margit Angerer
1480BM  Faust: Es ist schon spaet I              66858
        with Margit Angerer
1482BM  Faust: Es ist schon spaet II             66858
        with Margit Angerer
1611BM  La Bohčme: Che gelida manina             66889
1612BM  Cavalleria Rusticana: Mamma,quel vino    66890
1613˝BM Lohengrin: In fernem Land                66891
1614BM  Lohengrin: Mein lieber Schwann           66891
1615BM  Martha: M'appari tutt'amor               66890
1616BM  Ingemisco                                95354
1617˝BM Pagliacci: Recitar .. Vesti  la          66889
1505BK  Manon: Ich schloss die Augen             90151
1812˝BK Cavalleria Rusticana: Viva il vino       62673
1918BK  Mattinata                                62674
1919BK  Pour un baiser                           62674
1920BK  Di te                                    90150
1921BK  Cavalleria Rusticana: O Lola             62673
780BT   Addio                                    90220
782BT   Torna a Surriento                        90150
783BT   Fedora: Lieb' verbietet Lieb'            90151

His acoustic recordings are missing from this list.

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