Peter Anders

(1908 - 1954)

Peter Anders's autograph www.cs.princeton.jpg
Source: www.cs.princeton.jpg


Peter Anders: The Regime's Tenor
by Daniele Godor (Click on name to contact author)

1. Biography

The commemoration of the German tenor Peter Anders is like in the case of Fritz Wunderlich overshadowed by tragdy: Anders died in a car accident in 1954, at the age of only 46 and on the peak of his popularity. Peter Anders was undoubtedly the most popular of the German post war tenors - he made more than 500 recordings and participated in five movies. His repertoire was unusual and almost of chameleonic character: it ranged from Ferrando in Mozart's Così fan tutte to Verdi's Otello, from Tamino in Mozart's Zauberflöte to Radames in Verdi's Aida and included songs by Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann and Richard Strauss. He sang Mahler's Lied von der Erde as well as oratorios by Haydn and Händel. Even operetta was, represented with not less than 16 rôles an inherent part of his repertoire. And the fact that Anders was as popular as Otello and Andrea Chenier as he was as Tamino and Lied performer is even more astonishing.

I -The singing auditor

Peter Anders Peter Anders was born on July 1, 1908 in Essen, Germany. "Peter" was a pseudonym he assumed in 1932, his real name was Emil Ernst Anders. In 1919 the family - an underprivileged family from working class - moved to Berlin, where Anders soon joined a church choir. The quality of his singing is documented by two conflicting sources: in church, Anders was trusted with solo numbers - while in his school report from 1919 his singing is marked "poor". Later, Anders recalled his first years in Berlin: First I only sang in the choir, but soon I was trusted with solo parts, and since then I was impressed by a burning desire: I wanted to become a singer. The organist who accompanied me in church encouraged me.

But Anders' father had other plans: he wanted his son to learn a "decent" profession - something that absolutely is understandable, considering the difficult and precarious 1920s. And in 1923, Anders started to train as an auditor. I was less and less satisfied with the job my father wanted me to do - I have always been a man who wanted to live his life, I did not care much about dead numbers and letters… that's at least how I experienced them…

Peter Anders young But it was not before 1928 that Anders, now working as an auditor, decided to train his voice with a professional teacher. His choice fell on the famous Ernst Grenzebach who then was a professor at the Berlin conservatory. Among Grenzebach's most famous students were Max Lorenz, Lauritz Melchior, Alexander Kipnis and Paul Schöffler. Anders began with sporadic private lessons, but in 1929 he decided to systematically study singing in addition to his work as auditor - which he could not quit since he had to finance his education completely on his own.

The years that followed were overshadowed by the extraordinary burden of having an ordinary 9 to 5 job in addition to a serious artistic education with Grenzebach and Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, his second important teacher:   A layman will never understand what it means for a fun-loving young man to come home after eight hours of office work and study singing day in, day out. Abstain from everything that pleases a young man… to me that meant: go to bed early, no alcohol, no smoking. Never forget that you have to disprove the sceptics at home, prove that you have enough talent to make it as a singer! Never forget this has to work!

 In 1931 Anders was awarded for his discipline with a first engagement at the opera house in Heidelberg, but his debut did not come before October 15, 1932, when he sang the bit part of Pedrillo in Mozart's Entführung aus dem Serail. The critics were charmed by his fresh voice, his lovely and bold acting and the "promising material". In December 1932 he sang Jaquino in Beethoven's Fidelio - and also there the critics attested him a "nice tenor voice". Another critic wrote after a performance of Lortzing's Waffenschied: Anders was "charming, fresh and directly funny, acting vividly, his singing was clean and beautiful, with excellent pronouciation. A most gratifying development!"

II -An eerie fugleman

The year 1933 was of great importance for the career of Peter Anders: Adolf Hitler took the power in Germany. Two of the most popular tenors in Germany, Richard Tauber and Joseph Schmidt, were Jews and could not continue their careers in Nazi-Germany. The gap could not easilly be closed: Franz Völker was like Max Lorenz a Heldentenor, neither of them was an ideal singer for light music and musical entertainment. They did not look all too attractive on celluloid, and at least Lorenz was from a political point of view not as easy going as Völker.

While Hitler's takeover did not any immediate effect on Lorenz' and Völker's career, it meant something like the kick-off for Anders' career advancement. Until 1933 Anders had not sung any major rôle in a major theatre in Germany. But suddenly the biggest German record company, Telefunken, invited him for a recording session. Today we know that Andres' first teacher, Grenzebach, had contacts to the Telefunken direction, but this can hardly explain why Telefunken suddenly was interested in an unknown tenore buffo from Heidelberg. Anders recorded Ch'ella mi creda from Puccini's Fanciulla del West and Donna non vidi mai from the opera Manon Lescaut by the same composer - accompanied by the Berlin Philharmonic.

Peter Anders as Pinkerton in Munich Shortly after Anders got invited by a major radio station for singing in a couple of concerts in the Saargebiet, that part in the utter west of Germany that was occupied by French forces since World War I. This was without doubt a propaganda event (the announcer talked about "our fatherland" and "German folklore"), and Anders participated with great success. Back in Heidelberg Anders sang his first mail rôle: Pinkerton from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. In Mai 1933 he continued his collaboration with the German radio, returning to the Saargebiet and singing pieces from Rigoletto, Madama Butterfly and excerpts from operettas.

Peter Anders as DucaIn August 1933 Anders assumed a new engagement in Darmstadt while he continued to record for Telefunken and to perform for the German radio. His first appearances in the new theatre were not answered with the same enthusiasm as in Heidelberg. The house in Darmstadt (1370 seats) was more than twice as big as the opera in Heidelberg and Anders' voice was perceived as too small. For the rest of the season Anders sang nothing but bit parts, except for a performance of Donizetti's Don Pasquale, in which Anders sang the rôle of Ernesto - "a naive, lyrical part that suits him well" (Darmstädter Tagblatt) . At the same time, Anders continued to record for Telefunken: the two arias from Puccini's Turandot, excerpts from Rigoletto, some operetta pieces and pop-music.

Therewith one thing became evident: Anders was the new young tenor of the new Germany and Anders' almost diametrically opposed applications (on one side Ernesto and pop-songs, a voice which seemed to be too small for a theatre of 1300 seats and on the other side Calaf and Johnson for the radio), proved that Anders was a singer built up to replace the two popular tenors who just got chased away. Tauber has been the tenor for the heavier repertoire (before 1927) and the operetta (mostly Léhar), while Schmidt has been very popular in the radio and recorded a lot of pop-songs. Völker and Lorenz were, as said, Heldentenors and not suited for the tasks the new regime assigned Anders. Völker and Lorenz were, just as their popular colleagues Herbert Ernst Groh and Marcel Wittrisch already well established when the Nazis took over the power in Germany. Peter Anders was a new face, a nobody until he suddenly got launched by Telefunken. He was shapeable material and wanted to make a career like every young singer - as his continuous participation in the propaganda events arranged by the German radio in the Saargebiet bears witness.

Walther Ludwig (1902-1981), another young and promising German tenor who was about to make an international career as Mozart singer, had also been asked for what Peter Anders voluntarily had done: to make excursions into the spinto and drammatico repertoire. It is told that Hitler and Goebbels personally tried to bribe Ludwig into singing the rôle of Stolzing in Wagner's Meistersinger. But Ludwig adamantly refused: "Der Führer will not grow that old", he replied. He knew that he would never sing the part.  

Peter Anders as Tamino In spite of the negative critics Anders soon got to sing another big rôle in Darmstadt: Tamino from the Magic Flute (February 8, 1934). But neither this performance evoked the desired success. Anders' voice was perceived as too small and his acting as poor: "Anders does not know what to do with Tamino. (…) As to the voice one has to say that this Tamino was lanky, too light for this house - his voice is lyric by all means, but it is lacking the necessery power. Is this Tamino an experiment?"

In summer 1934 Anders left Darmstadt and signed a contract in Cologne. His first appearance, Oberon in Weber's opera of the same title, was an immediate success. The critics praised Anders' "well formed material and artistic taste". Also his Tamino was now well received: "His execution had character and convinced by noble calmness and intelligent countenance. His voice has every requirement for the real Mozart singer and is a valuable and necessery addendum to our ensemble."

In November 1934 Anders went to Berlin in order to record excerpts from Il Trovatore (rather a spinto part and not a rôle for the Mozart singer the press expected Anders to become) and La Traviata for Telefunken. His partners were among others the Finnish soprano Aulikki Rautawaara, Margarethe Klose, and Eugen Fuchs.

In January 1935 Anders participated in another propaganda event: a feastful performance of Wagner's Meistersinger, in which Anders sang the part of Kunz Vogelsang. The performance was prefaced by a speech, the German national anthem and the Horst-Wessel-Lied, the official Nazi-hymn. Anders was not a member of the Nazi-party, but he gladly accepted what the regime had to offer. The fact that the Nazis had played an important role for launching his career might have made him the willing collaborator he certainly was. Anders does not seem to have been political, and statements of political nature can't be found. But he signed his correspondence with Heil Hitler - something that not really was necessery. And Heil Hitler was of course a political statement.

Peter Anders as Rodolfo in Munich In March 1935 Anders sang for the first time Rodolfo from Puccini's La Bohème. There he was not as successful as in Oberon or the Magic Flute. Again, his voice was perceived as too weak, or at least, as the critic wrote, "thinner than Mimi's". On the other side Anders' singing was found "tasteful" and "cultivated". In Berlin he recorded arias from Mozart's operas Don Giovanni and Zauberflöte and participated in a concert with Erna Sack. A performance of Tchaikovsky's Legend of the blind Yolantha for the Reichsrundfunk in Berlin brought him together with such artists as Maria Cebotari, Rudolf Watzke and Kurt Böhme. The critic of the Nazi-newspaper Völkischer Beobachter enthused: "Among the soloists especially Peter Anders' fresh tenor attracted attention." Back in Cologne Anders debuted as Duca di Mantova in Verdi's Rigoletto

The fact that he now was regularly entrusted with main rôles changed his life: Anders had succeeded in overcoming the financial difficulties for him and his family. In 1935 Anders, a motor sports fanatic, bought his first car. And he finally married his longtime love, Susi Gmeiner (the daughter of his second teacher), on the beautiful island Sylt in northern Germany.

They decided to move to Hannover, where Anders had signed a contract for the season 1935/36.

In Hannover Anders debuted with the rôle of Tamino, in which he made a very positive and promising impression: "a free floating voice of real lyric charm and a surprisingly good pronounciation" combined with an "attractive appearance on stage". His Rodolfo was a similar success: "Anders has everything Rodolfo has to have: a light, flexible voice with bright top notes, full control of the parlando - his acting was characterised by passionated empathy."

Also as the Duke in Rigoletto, Alfredo in La Traviata and Ferrando in Così fan tutte he managed to convince the critics.

But despite his success and except for his Telefunken recordings and radio appearances, Anders was still not moving outside the provincial backwater. Hannover was a minor opera house, and real careers could only be made in Berlin, Dresden, Munich or Bayreuth. The fact that Anders was recording (Verdi-) arias for Telefunken and at the same time only was a (Mozart-) house tenor in a minor opera house was a strange discrepance. And it was exactly this discrepance that his colleague, Heldentenor Johannes Schocke was alluding to, when Anders once brought a grammophone to the opera house and played his newest record - the flower song from Carmen - for his colleagues. Well, everybody was charmed by the beauty of the singing, but Schocke just pointed to the stage and said: "Nicely done, but first of all you must be able to sing it there! "

Peter Anders' breakthrough did not come before winter 1936, when he sang a guest performance as Lyonel from Flotow's Martha in Munich. The critics were exhilarating: "An applause as enthusiactic as he got on the open stage after his aria 'Ach so fromm' in act three is not heard every day. A real tenor! With easy top, metallic brilliance, good pronounciation and a voice of enchanting beauty and flawless intonation." The conductor Clemens Krauss (who was the new director of the Bavarian State Opera) made Anders right away sign a contract for the following seasons: 1937/38, 1939/40, 1940/41. Munich was one of the important opera houses in Germany and a possible stepping stone for his career advancement. Clemens Krauss, the director, was an influential personality, a close friend to Richard Strauss and - in his function as Reichskultursenator - an active and eager nationalsocialist. By the end of the 1930s Munich was a town that was affected by a permanent housing shortage, and Krauss used to "organize" apartments for the new members of the ensemble - by assigning them to former "Judenwohnungen", apartments that originally had been Jewish property.

The following months proved that the good impression he left in Munich and the contacts to Krauss were indeed very useful. In January 1937 - Anders was still engaged in Hannover - he gave his first performance in Berlin at the Staatsoper, replacing the indisposed Franz Völker in a performance of Mozart's Zauberflöte. Anders made a very positive impression, and suddenly great conductors like Karl Böhm and Heinz Tietjen were as well interested in the 28 year old tenor. Böhm invited him to Dresden where Anders appeared as Lyonel from Flotow's Martha - again replacing another tenor: this time the indisposed Martin Kremer. His partners in this performance (February 2, 1937) were Erna Sack and the great Norwegian bass Ivar Andresen.

On Februry 18, 1937 Anders gave his debut in Hamburg, replacing Helge Rosvænge in the rôle of Alfredo in Verdi's Traviata. In March 1937 he returned to Berlin, this time as Alfredo to Maria Cebotari's Violetta - and later in the same year as Pinkerton to Erna Berger's Butterfly and as the Duke from Verdi's Rigoletto, replacing the indisposed Jan Kiepura.

III -Munich

In Autumn 1937 Anders "took office" in Munich, singing parts like Alfredo, Rodolfo, Narraboth in Strauss' Salome, Tamino, Il Duca di Mantova and Pinkerton. Especially his Tamino and Pinkerton were reviewed remarkably positively by the critics. Anders' success in Munich (the opera house has 2100 seats) proved that Anders' voice must have grown significantly during his time in Hannover and that he easily could fill a medium size opera house like the Stae Opera in Munich with his voice. And the fact that his Duke and Pinkerton were met with enthusiasm showed that Anders must have been more than "just" a Mozart tenor.

Anders' recorded legacy from the year 1938 is a first class prove for his development. In January 1938 Anders sang the rôle of Luigi in Puccini's Il Tabarro, and this performance with Mathieu Ahlersmeyer as Marcel, Hildegard Ranczak as Georgette and Clemens Krauss conducting has been preserved on record. Luigi is a rôle for a lirico who can create dramatic attacks, a part that certainly would be too heavy for the typical Mozart singer. But Anders' Luigi has almost everything the rôle needs, lyrical, tender moments and dramatic accents. What we can hear is a sleek, well focused lyrical voice of "German colour", with easy emission and a good passaggio. The high notes from G and upover have metallic, steely brilliance, much more than a Mozart singer needs.

But at the same time it can be heared that the rôle of Luigi was borderland for Anders' voice. The rôle of Luigi is somehow something of a problem for Anders' upper register. The bright timbre could create dramatic accents, but it lacked the body, the full bronze sound for creating real dramatic scenes. The consequence was that Anders in certain parts of the opera forced his voice in the middle range in order to give it the necessery dramatic colour. The high notes, that naturally should be even more powerful than the middle register, therefore bore slight traces of fatigue, forcing and strain - a logic consequence of forcing the middle register into a dramatic colour that the voice originally lacked. But overall, the recording is of exceptional beauty. Anders' execution is thrilling and moving, the dramatic attack on "telo giuro, no tremo, a vibrare il coltello…" is, in spite of my point of criticism, most convincing and compares favourably with the best versions. Clemens Krauss' conducting is furthermore of outstanding quality.

Anders' appearances in Munich, his successful guest performances in Berlin and Dresden, his records and radio performances made Anders' more and more popular. By summer 1938 Anders was a welcome guest in all German opera houses. In Königsberg he gave triumphal guest performances in La Traviata, La Bohème and Rigoletto (singing La donna è mobile twice), sang his first important recital in Berlin (together with Aulikki Rautawaara) and the parts of Pinkerton and Wilhelm Meister (Mignon) at the State Opera. In Munich he participated in the first performance of Richard Strauss' Friedenstag (July 24, 1938) and gave his rôle debut as Almaviva (Barbiere di Seviglia), sang the short but difficult part of the Italian singer in Strauss' Rosenkavalier and the bit part of the seaman in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

 In autumn 1938 Anders had the great honour to open the season 1938/39, singing once more Tamino from Mozart's Zauberflöte, followed by several performances of Tchaikovsky's Evgeni Onegin and Verdi's Rigoletto with Maria Cebotari as Gilda and Mariano Stabile as Rigoletto. Anders was accepted enthusiastically.

Peter Anders with Ursula in 1938 In January 1939 Anders returned to Berlin for participating in another propagandistic event: the feastful opening of the new Reichskanzlei, Hitler's new Government building. He sang the rôle of Lyonel in a gala-performance of Flotow's Martha. Still in Berlin, he also participated in performances of Richard Strauss' operas Friedenstag with Viorica Ursuleac and Rudolf Bockelmann and Daphne with Torsten Ralf, Joseph von Manowarda and Maria Cebotari. In February 2, 1939 Anders recorded Donizetti's complete Don Pasquale for the German radio (Reichssender Stuttgart), with Georg Hann, Arno Schellenberg, Margarita Perras and Gustav Görlich conducting. But no copies of the recording were preserved in the archives.

The gala-performance for the opening of Hitler's Reichskanzlei was not the only propaganda-event Anders was part of in 1939. He also participated in several performances in the presence of Hitler and Goebbels for celebrating Richard Strauss' 75. birthday in summer 1939. In July 1939 Anders sang Belmonte in Mozart's Entführung at the opening of the "Museum of German Art" in Munich, this time in the presence of Rudolf Heß, Hitler's deputy.

In September 1939 Hitler and Stalin attacked Poland, and France and Britain declared war on Germany. Anders was, being one of the top artists of the regime, not drafted and could continue his inexorable rise. Others, like Rudolf Schock, had to serve in the German Wehrmacht. As to Anders' career advancement, the war even came just at the right time. It would reduce the number of foreign guest performers and make his own position even more significant.

Shortly after the outbrake of the war Anders gave his rôle debut as Cavaradossi in Puccini's Tosca. Belmonte and Cavaradossi - how could one and the same singer handle two so different rôles? The critics were unexceptionally positive, and Anders' voice was described as "well built" and "ringing", his acuti as "brightly shining", "like silver lightnings" - and one critic even meant to have heard "a heldentenor's colour" in Anders' voice.

In January 1940 Anders decided to leave Munich and to continue his career in Berlin, the heart of the German Reich. Personal disagreements with Clemens Krauss were undoubtedly the reason for terminating the contract with the State Opera in Munich. But the reasons for Anders' conflicts with Krauss were not as clear cut. In several letters Anders complained in a rather harsh tone about odds and ends and negligibilities. Krauss, who obviously was very annoyed by Anders' angry manner dismissed him on January 6, 1940. According to his biographer Ferdinand Kösters, Anders wanted to leave Munich due to the fact that his colleague Julius Patzak had a higher salary - something that made Anders "furious". Thus it appears that Anders just looked for a pretext for getting the contract cancelled in order to sign a more profitable contract with the State Opera in Berlin.


The Staatsoper in Berlin did not hesitate to offer him a contract for the war season 1940/41, which Anders gladly accepted. In the meanwhile he gave guest performances in Berlin (Cavaradossi, Rodolfo, Belmonte, Lyonel, Leukippos, Matteo in Richard Strauss' Arabella and Ero in Jakov Gotovac's opera Ero, der Schelm) and made his successful debut in Vienna as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly (March 7, 1940). In addition he kept singing for the NS-organisation Kraft durch Freude - a kind of national socialist entertainment organisation - for which Anders toured Germany and gave recitals in the province.

In September 1940 Anders became a regular member of the Berlin State Opera, singing the "classical" rôles of his repertoire, Mozart rôles like Belmonte, Ferrando and Tamino, Rigoletto, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, La Bohème and also some works of contemporary composers. Anders was now a well established singer in Germany. But the discrepance between the repertoire he performed on stage and the repertoire he sang for the radio, on records and in recitals was still omnipresent. In recitals, Anders sang In fernem Land from Lohengrin, Nessun dorma, Celeste Aida end excerpts from La Forza del Destino. But Heinz Tietjen, the director of the Berlin State Opera casted Anders only for the light repertoire - a repertoire in which La Bohème was the upper limit.

In March 1941 Anders gave a guest performance for German soldiers in Brussels. Belgium was occupied by German forces since summer 1940, and performances in occupied countries were often resented by the people in the occupied country as well as by German artists that have stayed in Germany but who did not support the German regime. Wilhelm Furtwängler and Max Lorenz have therefore always and more or less successfully tried to avoid performances in occupied countries - especially when they were, like in the case of Anders' concert in Brussels, linked to propagandistic activities.

Later in 1941 Anders also participated in the Salzburger Festspiele, singing Tamino under the baton of Karl Böhm - this time again in the presence of more than 800 Wehrmachtssoldaten and the minister of propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Peter Anders was celebrated by the audience and the critics as the ideal Mozart tenor and the best Tamino of his Generation.

In February 1942 - Anders had prolonged his engagement in Berlin - Furtwängler showed interest in the young tenor and invited him for a couple of recitals in the Berlin Philharmonie. Anders sang lieder by Richard Strauss, accompanied by Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic. One of the recitals is preserved on record and documents that Anders was an excellent interpreter of lieder, not to mention Furtwängler's wonderful and thrilling conducting. The Furtwängler specialist John Ardoin wrote:

"There is no difficulty in feeling a well-established musical atmosphere in each song, but because of the domincance of the voice, it is not always easy to place oneself within these musical landscapes. Still, there are incredible beauties to savor, chiefly the emotional peaks of 'Verführung' and the ardor of 'Winterliebe', both heightened by the youthful splendour of Peter Anders' voice."

Another recital by another artist that took place at the Berlin Philharmonie in spring 1942 was unfortunately not recorded: Jussi Björling's only war time concert in Berlin, accompanied by Michael Raucheisen.

March 1942 brought up another collaboration with Furtwängler and the Berlin Philharmonic: a performance of Beethoven's Ninth. Also this performance has been recorded, and it is one of the most breathtaking performances of Beethoven's masterpiece on disc. Peter Anders sings his solo part with an unusual heroic impetus. There he does actually not sound like the Mozart tenor he was celebrated as. But this recording is interesting also for other reasons:

"It is impossible to listen to the Berlin Ninth without an acute awareness of the political and historical events of the moment, both in terms of Germany and Furtwängler. One of the noblest utterances of the human spirit was being voiced in a country engaged in some of the most appalling atrocities to be committed in the twentieth century. Furtwängler felt this blatant dichotomy, and it was surely responsible for the cyclonic fury of the 1942 performance. It is drenched with torment, anger and a sense of struggle that goes beyond the 1937 Ninth to a more frightening and exhausting expressive plain. Accents are brutal in the first and and second movements (…). It is the finale, however, that makes the greatest impact with its almost desperate appeal, as if Furtwängler were somehow attempting through the music to alter or reverse the events engulfing him. (…) In this wartime Ninth one must admire the playing of the Philharmonic, the solists (apart from the pale Tilla Briem), and the superb Bruno Kittel Choir (…)." (John Ardoin)

The year 1942 was also marked by a new development on the field of recording technology: the first tapes were introduced - an invention that was much more handy than the 78rpm discs, especially for recording longer pieces of music and entire operas. In 1942 Anders recorded among others an abriged version of La Bohàme and Mozart's Abduction, the two arias from Tosca in Italian, plus Una furtiva lagrima.

In the following war years Anders continued to perform in Berlin, Vienna and the occupied Netherlands (Abduction) and Poland (Così fan tutte) and participated in movies (vNacht ohne Abschied, Liebesgeschichten - both 1943). But the more and more allied air raids made performances in Berlin rare, dangerous, if not impossible. In summer 1944 the Staatsoper was shut down and was only sporadically opened for concerts and recitals.

Peter Anders in unknown role Against all these great odds the German radio continued to record complete operas and excerpts: a complete Martha with Anders and Erna Berger (1944), excerpts from La Bohème with Anders and Cebotari, and again excerpts from Mozart's Abduction with Anders and Berger. Helge Rosvænge sang the more dramatic parts in the wartime recordings: Otello with Hans Reinmar as Jago (1943), Andrea Chenier with Wilhelm Domgraf Faßbaender (1943), La Forza del Destino with Schlusnus and so on. Another interesting recording made by the German radio were the excerpts from Carmen with Torsten Ralf as Don José. A complete recording of Beethoven's Fidelio with Ralf and Anders was planned but never realised.

In 1944 Anders participated diligently in national socialist propaganda events. On July 5, 1944 he was for example part of a program für die Wehrmacht, in which also Helge Rosvænge appeared. Anders sang Che gelida manina and Dies Bildnis ist bezaubernd schön. On July 12, 1944 he was part of a program organized by the NS-organisation Kraft durch Freude. He sang O soave fanciulla (with Erna Berger), Bildnisarie and Bella figlia dell'amore from Rigoletto.

In 1945 all the great opera houses on German soil fell victim to the barbarous air raids: on February 3 the State Opera in Berlin, on February 13 the Semperoper in Dresden (during one of the most brutal air attacks during the war in which more than 35 000 people were killed), and on March 12 the Vienna State Opera.

In May 1945 Berlin was nothing but a moonscape, covered by craters and corpses. More than 50 % of all houses were totally destroyed, and of the 4,5 millions of inhabitants of 1943 only 1 million was left. One of them was Peter Anders. While hundreds and thousands desperately fought against the Russian advance and gave their lives, Peter Anders experienced the German defeat while lying in bed in his mansion in Berlin-Dahlem, suffering from a biliary colic.

V - Deus ex machina

One of the most remarkable features in German history was the efficient rebuilding of Germany and her cities. But life was hard and the winter of 1946 was unusually cold. Parks and public gardens were digged up in order to grow vegetables. The dearth was omnipresent, and an average man did not weigh more than 50 kg.

Even more remarkable was therefore the fact that the ensemble of the Berlin State Opera started performing again as early as in September 1945. Peter Anders was for some odd reason not at all struck by the so called denazification and got the permission to sing without any difficulties. Others, like Furtwängler or Mengelberg, were banned from their professions and were not allowed to conduct. Furtwängler's ban was lifted in 1947, but Mengelberg was condemned to remain in silence forever - a measure that was worth to be called a Nazi-measure. He, one of the truly greatest musicians of the 20th century, died before the ban was lifted.

Peter Anders as Duca in 1945 Peter Anders' first post war performance was the Duke in Verdi's Rigoletto, together with Erna Berger and Josef Burgwinkel. The performance was sold out - in spite of the difficult situation most Berliners were in, they went to the opera, which was a ray of hope and consolation in the midst of the post war tristesse:

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

But Ezra Pound's noble words can not conceal the fact that the niveau of the State Opera in Berlin had been sunk connotatively. After twelve years of the barbarism of Nazi-cultural policy only few artists of distinction were left. Peter Anders was undoubtedly one of them, but he became more and more - just like Erna Berger - the German opera life's handyman. Marcel Wittrisch, Karl Erb, Franz Völker, Helge Rosvænge and Max Lorenz had their peak already behind them, and tenors like Ludwig Suthaus, Walther Ludwig, Anton Dermota or Hans Hopf were not necesserily as versatile as Peter Anders or just not on the same artistic level. In the late 1940 one therefore spoke about the "lack of tenors" in Germany. Many performances of the five first post war years therefore featured Peter Anders and Erna Berger - a standard cast for everything from Mozart to Verdi, except for Wagner operas. The provincial niveau of the Berlin State Opera becomes even more evident if one compares the cast of the Berlin performances to the personell of international opera houses.
Let's have a look at Anders' repertoire:

Madama Butterfly at La Scala in 1945: Del Monaco and Salvarezza as Pinkerton and Butterfly, Guarnieri conducting;
Rigoletto at the Metropolitan in 1945: Björling as the Duke, Warren as Rigoletto and Sayao as Gilda, Sodero conducting.

Staatsoper after air raidPeter Anders was of course a well known and beloved artist in Germany, but in international relation he was a dark horse. Still he was undoubtedly the star of the Berlin State Opera. The other tenors of the first post war years were Erich Witte, a former comprimario who now was trusted with main rôles like Lenski (Nov. 7, 1945), Pinkerton (Jan. 26, 1946), Hoffmann (April 10, 1946), Luigi (July 27, 1946), Erik (July 29, 1947), Hermann (Nov. 8, 1947) and so on. Furthermore the young Rudolf Schock and Ludwig Suthaus, a powerful Heldentenor, who sang the parts of Pedrillo (from d'Albert's Tiefland, Dec. 6, 1945), Sadko (April 10, 1947), Tristan (Oct. 3, 1947) and Stolzing (Dec. 19, 1948).

The next performances Peter Anders participated in were a concert on November 8, 1945 (with Erna Berger), another one on new years eve (with Berger), Butterfly on March 21, 1946 (with Berger), Die Entführung aus dem Serail (on June 8, 1946 - again with Erna Berger), La Traviata on November 23, 1946, with Erna Berger as Violetta and Josef Metternich as Germont and Die Zauberflöte June 21, 1947, again with Berger as Königin der Nacht and Tiana Lemnitz as Pamina.

In 1946 Anders sang Hoffmann in a complete recording of Hoffmanns Erzählungen, together with Erna Berger, Margarete Klose and Rita Streich. The circumstances under which the piece was recorded, are quaint: due to the lack of an intact studio, the recording engineers decided to record the opera in a bomb shelter. Later, critics have praised this "Bunker-Hoffmann" to the skies, but Anders' achievements are more than doubtful: What we can hear is a overstressed voice, dry and chesty, and the higher notes are stiff and stringy.

Peter Anders as Belmonte in 1946 It seems as if Anders' moderate presentation was not an exception. The German critics were not anymore brought into line as it was the case during the Nazi regime, and suddenly critical reviews appeared as well on the agenda. About his 1946 Traviata one critic wrote: "Only few and far between (…) the natural beauty of the voice was heard. For the rest the voice was affected by a hard sound. Today, the voice sounds more brilliant than warm, and the briliance is unfortunately mostly achieved at the expense of beauty." Anders' appearance in the 1947 Zauberflöte in Berlin was again not exclusively reviewed with favour. One critic wrote: "The impression of Peter Anders' Tamino suffers from an occasional harshness in the high notes. This is very much a pity since much of what he sings is of noble vocal beauty." A Liederabend in Berlin on April 7, 1948 was not met with undivided enthusiasm either: "Not everything Peter Anders sings, can make us happy. When singing forte in the upper register his voice has a certain harshness, which can be uncomfortable for a trained ear."

Anders was obviously going through a vocal crisis. But for all that he went on performing and recording for the German radio. In 1947 he recorded Schumann's Dichterliebe and Lieder by Richard Strauss for Radio Bremen, followed by a performance of Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, recorded by RIAS Berlin. A performance of Winterreise in Berlin in the same year was reviewed very positively. In 1948 he recorded about 50 songs for the West German radio (WDR) and a complete Fidelio for the North German radio (NDR). But most of the recordings have unfortunately been erased by the radio companies. Only a 1948 performance of Winterreise, accompanied by Günter Weißenborn, has survived.

In summer 1948 the conflict bewteen the Russians and the western allies in Berlin culminated in the Russian blockade of West-Berlin. The war risk was immense, and Anders decided to leave Berlin and the State Opera, in which he could no longer work since the building belonged to the part of Berlin that was controlled by the Russians - Anders' mansion lay in West-Berlin.

He signed a contract at the State Opera in Hamburg and left Berlin in autumn 1948.

VI -Hamburg

What were the reasons for Anders' vocal crisis in the late 1940s? His biographer Ferdinand Kösters mentions the difficult circumstances in post war Berlin, dearth and severe cold. That is not very convincing since Peter Anders' crisis began not later than 1946 and lasted for at least two years. The critics of 1946 and 1947 had dispraised his upper register, had noticed an uncomfortable, hard sound. But this was nothing new: Always when Anders approached rôles that were something like borderland for his voice, he started to force his voice. That could be heard in his recording of Luigi, and it can even be heard in a recording of La Bohème from 1943. But if one compares the 1946 Hoffmann to the 1938 Tabarro one will notice that Anders' voice was still much better in 1938. The difference is enormous.

The reason for the vocal crisis is most probably the fact that Anders wanted to become a Heldentenor and that he trained his voice corrispondingly. A change from a lyric tenor into a Heldentenor can (if at all) not be done over night.

The season 1948/49 seems to prove the theory: again he sang Belmonte and Tamino, the Duke and Rodolfo - but also Cavaradossi and, for the very first time, Don Alvaro in Verdi's Forza del Destino, which certainly is a rôle for a robust lirico spinto or a dramatic tenor. In 1949 he therewith presented what he had trained for during the last two seasons - something that had been perceived as a serious vocal decline. The rôle debut came on January 1949, in a guest performance at the Opernhaus Düsseldorf. In June 1949 he went one further, and gave his first rôle debut in Hamburg: Florestan in Beethoven's Fidelio. The press was positive: "He filled every inch of this most difficult part with the brilliance of his beautiful, cultivated tenor voice."

In August 1949 he gave his rôle debut as Radames. Finally, Anders sang all the rôles he hitherto only had sung in the studio, also on stage. The critics were also in this case utterly positive.

The rest of the year 1949 was exceedingly multifaceted: in October he recorded Strauss' opera Daphne, singing the part of Apollo. in November he gave a couple of guest performances in Berlin. The day after a performance of Die Zauberflöte at the Staatsoper he recorded excerpts from Andrea Chenier (!), the day after he participated in a complete recording of Die Fledermaus under the baton of Ferenc Fricsay. The next day he spent his forenoon recording corrections for the Fledermaus. In the evening he sang Cavaradossi at the State Opera. In December he recorded he recorded another operetta: Der Zigeunerbaron, together with Sena Jurinac, Karl Schmitt-Walter and Georg Hann. And finally, on December 27, 1949, he gave his rôle debut as Don José.

Peter Anders as Otello in 1950But the greatest venture came in spring 1950: Peter Anders debuted in the title rôle of Verdi's Otello. Half a year after his Tamino in Berlin, and just a few months after having recorded several operetta parts - how was that possible? The press enthused:

"The new production was dominated by the vocal and the acting skills of Peter Anders who created the title rôle in an exquisitely thrilling manner. (…) A very promising success, enthusiastically acknowledged by the audience." (Die Welt)

"The sensation of this performance was Peter Anders' Otello. (…) He mastered the the extremely difficult part safely, giving it heroic notes of a beauty and a brilliance that could not be heard in our opera house for a long time and that most probably can't be heard on any other stage in Germany." (Hamburger Freie Presse)

"This is most probably the most impressive rôle debut of the last years on a German stage. Anders has preserved the abilitiy to stay lyrical where the rôle needs it. But already his first entrance showed that he has the power and the brilliance for high dramatical moments." (Hamburger Abendblatt)

 In October 1950 he sang his first Heldentenor-part: Stolzing in Wagner's Meisteringer. Also this rôle was a plain success for Peter Anders.

The fact that Anders successfully mastered some of the most demanding parts in the tenor literature made his name interesting also on the international scale. In summer 1950 he was invited to the Edinburgh Festival, where he successfully sang the rôle of Bacchus in Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos. This was followed by a performance of Fidelio at Covent Garden:

"Peter Anders sang in the German part of Florestan in Fidelio at Covent Garden last night and gave dramatic life to an otherwise singularly flaccid performance under Peter Gellhorn." (Daily Telegraph)

In 1951 he sang Fidelio at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. One critic praised Anders as "a gorgeous dramatic tenor with flexible, dense voice and putstanding expression." (Mattino d'Italia)

On April 27, 1951 he sang Otello in Vienna, with Maria Reining as Desdemona: "In the very beginning of act one Anders excited a thundering applause that has no equal. New, unknown notes of metallic brilliance (…). His Otello was not only from a vocally point of view but also as to his acting skills most enjoyable." To his mother, Anders wrote in a letter: After my first short entry I was celebrated with ovations and bravos… I was totally perplexed. They continued throughout the performance, after the arias… although the music went on, the audience interrupted it with its applause. And in the end they did not stop shouting: Anders, Anders, Anders! I have never experienced something like that. After each act the director came to me, expressed his appreciation and congratulated me.

For the season 1951/52 Anders signed a contract in Vienna.

VII -Height and endpoint

Peter Anders in 1954 In summer 1951 Anders gave again a couple of guest performances at Covent Garden as Stolzing in Wagner's Meistersinger, this time under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. The performances were a great success.

During the Festwochen in Berlin (September 1951) he sang two performances of La Forza del Destino directed by Leo Blech, a performance of Fidelio with Inge Borkh, directed by Ferenc Fricsay and two performances of Beethoven's Ninth, directed by Furtwängler.

In autumn 1951 he recorded a new part in the studios of Radio Cologne: the title rôle in Wagner's Lohengrin, together with Trude Eipperle as Elsa and Carl Kronenberg as Telramund under the direction of Richard Kraus.

In December 1951 he returned to Hamburg, singing Stolzing, Otello and Tamino.

Peter Anders in 1954 But in spite of his international successes Anders was not an internationally established tenor. When Anders sang outside the German speaking countries he sang rôles of the German fach: Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner or Strauss. His Otello was obviously not regarded as an export product. There are rumours that Furtwängler wanted Anders for a performance of Otello at the Salzburger Festspiele in 1952. But it is a matter of fact that Furtwängler prefered Ramón Vinay, and a performance of Otello under Furtwängler was never realised. It is also told that Anders wanted to sing the rôle of Siegmund in Wagner's Walküre together with Furtwängler in Rome, but Furtwängler chose - as documented on record - Ludwig Suthaus. F. Köster states that Rudolf Bing wanted to invite Anders for singing Otello at the Met. But it never happened.

Anders debut in Die Walküre came in 1953 in Hamburg. Other interesting performances in this year were among others Mahler's Lied von der Erde, his rôle debut as Canio (March 17), as Hermann (Pique Dame, Mai 21) and Verdi's Requiem in November 1953.

By 1954 Anders was undoubtedly Germany's first and most popular tenor. Audience and critics praised him likewise. For the Germans he was one of the few new German idols and positive role models. Peter Anders was once more the tenor of a new Germany. By 1954 he had made about 500 recordings and participated in four movies. He was celebrated as the best Tamino of his generation, the best interpreter of Stolzing and Siegmund and the most popular German Otello of the post war time. His debuts as Calaf and Tristan were planned.

Peter Anders ' car after accidentOn September 5, 1954 Anders was seriously injured in a car accident. He passed away on September 10, 1954, at the peak of his career. 


2. Voice and technique

Peter Anders' voice was a real tenor's voice, bright and youthful. The production was relaxed and natural and not, as in the case of his colleagues Groh and Wittrisch, obscured by the typical German covered sound. The German covering did not only make the sound rounder, it also gave the timbre a woolly quality. Anders' voice was, on the other hand, clear and open. And that was maybe the reason for why critics from time to time disapproved his open sound. From today's point of view we have to recognize this critic as some kind of positive attestation - because Anders' open sound was closer to the Italian way of singing than the covered German technique. For a German critic from the 1930s the sound might have been to open and too direct.

Peter Anders recording for Telefunken Peter Anders' career started very early, and the first critics make one assume that his voice must have been very small. But the quick development he made until he became, together with Patzak, first tenor at the Munich State Opera, proves that he was a highly gifted and seriously working artist. His early recordings are not easy to get since many of them have not been reissued on CD. The best choice would be the CD Aulikki Rautawaara - Telefunken recordings 1934-1938, which contains the duets from Cavalleria, Butterfly, Tosca and Carmen with Anders [Finlandia 588152]. The voice we hear is undoubtedly a voice of limited dramatic power, soft, bright and youthful, a voice that certainly was able to give a manly note to Mozart rôles, but not necesserily to romantic Puccini parts.

Very valuable is the live recording of Puccini's Tabarro from 1938, released on CD in 1998 by Myto [Myto 983017]. Anders' voice was, as said above, stronger compared to the Telefunken recordings and had more dramatic brilliance than a "pure" Mozart singer would need. The document shows that Anders was on his way into the light spinto repertoire. At the same time it is obvious that the part of Luigi was borderland. Anders could not sing more dramatic as he did in this rôle without doing it at the expense of beauty.

Peter Anders's publicity picture The wartime recordings are Peter Anders' best recordings. There he really is on the peak of his artistry. Especially the various recordings of Strauss songs cannot be recommended highly enough. Peter Anders voice is again bigger than in 1938, the emission is calm and absolutely superoir. The technique is flawless, the sound most pleasant. His musicality is remarkable. I would say that no other tenor has interpreted songs by Richard Strauss better than Peter Anders. Every second of music is well though through and romantically inspired, precise and faithful to the work's spirit. The 4 orchestra songs with Furtwängler (Berlin 1942) have been released on several different labels. Also the following CD is of high quality: Peter Anders in Berlin Vol. 2 Gebhardt 31 (Lieder 1942-1945). The operatic recordings of this time are unfortunately not as good. His recording of La Bohàme [Gebhardt 27] suffers from his permanent straining in the upper register.

The post war recordings, especially the more dramatic repertoire, are characterized by the same defect. If one listens to one of the many published recitals on CD (Deutsche Grammophon, Preiser), one will hear the same light and bright, youthful tenor voice, equipped with even more steel but also more strain than in the 1938 recording. When Peter Anders sings Otello, when he sings Chenier and Radames, one will always have the impression that his voice had a much too light colour for dramatic parts. The necessery depth is missing. He sounds like an unusually powerful Mozart voice with forced and stiff acuti. The same applies for his Lohengrin, which also is available on CD [Myto 93485].

Peter Anders never was a Heldentenor, and the reason for his success in rôles like Otello might be the fact that his voice had the necessery power and the volume to cut through the orchestra. It was of course also an important factor that Peter Anders was a German star, a positive German role model shortly after the total defeat. He might have had the power for Otello and Lohengrin, maybe even for Tristan. But he did absolutely not have the voice for it.

But listening to his recordings of Strauss songs and early Mozart recordings reimburses for this mistake, which - it must be said for one last time - had been done at the expense of the beauty of his excellent voice. Concluding one therefore certainly has to assert that Anders was a man who did everything for his career, his unsacred alliance with the Nazis on one side, and the overstraining of his voice within a fach that was not for him on the other side. But one also has to remember that Peter Anders was one of the few who were able to make people very happy during wartime and the post war tristesse. That this can not necesserily be heard on all of his records can be excused.

3. Repertory

a)	Opera

Der abtrünnige Zar                    Rechter Bettler
Aida                                  Radames
Andrea Chenier                        Andrea Chenier
Andreasnacht                          Bruder Lustig
Andreas Wolfius                       Francesco Barrata
Aroldo                                Aroldo
Arabella                              Matteo
Ariadne auf Naxos                     Bacchus
Il Barbiere di Seviglia               Almaviva
Der Barbier von Bagdad                Nureddin
La Bohème                             Rodolfo
Der Campiello                         Zorzeto
Carmen                                Don José
Casanova in Murano                    Casanova
Cavalleria Rusticana                  Turiddu
Così fan tutte                        Ferrando
Dalibor                               Veit
Daphne                                Leukippos, Apoll
Djamileh                              Harun
Don Cesar                             König
Donna Diana                           Don Cesar
Don Pasquale                          Ernesto
Die Entführung aus dem Serail         Pedrillo, Belmonte
Ero, der Schelm                       Ero
Evgeni Onegin                         Lenski
La farsa amorosa                      Renzo
Fidelio                               Jaquino, Florestan
Der Fliegende Holländer               Steuermann, Erik
La Forza del Destino                  Alvaro
Francesca da Rimini                   Paolo
Die Frau ohne Schatten                Erscheinung eines Jünglings
Der Freischütz                        Max
Friedenstag                           Piemonteser
Fürst Igor                            Owlur
Die Gärtnerin aus Liebe               Belfiore
Das Glöckchen des Eremiten            Sylvain
Das Herz                              Junger Kavalier
Hoffmanns Erzählungen                 Student, Spiegelbild, Hoffmann
Jenufa                                Stewa Buryja
Kleider machen Leute                  Walter Strapinski
Königskinder                          Königssohn
Die Legende vom vertauschten Sohn     Besserwisser, Bürgermeister	
Die Legende von der blinden Yolantha  Graf Vaudenmont
Lohengrin                             Lohengrin
Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor       Fenton
Madama Butterfly                      Pinkerton
Martha                                Lyonel
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg        Kunz Vogelsang, Walther Stolzing
Mignon                                Wilhelm Meister
Mona Lisa                             Arrigo Oldofredi
Oberon                                Oberon
Otello                                Otello
Pagliacci                             Canio
Pique Dame                            Hermann
Das Rheingold                         Froh
Rigoletto                             Duca di Mantova
Der Rosenkavalier                     Sänger
Salome                                Narraboth
Sein Schatten                         Christoph
Das Schloß Dürande                    Armand
Der schwarze Peter                    Roderich
Il Tabarro                            Luigi, Venditore di canzonette
Tiefland                              Nando
Tosca                                 Cavaradossi
Tristan und Isolde                    Seemann
La Traviata                           Alfredo
Die verkaufte Braut                   Hans
Der Waffenschmied                     Georg
Die Walküre                           Siegmund
Der Widerspänstigen Zähmung           Lucentino
Der Wildschütz                        Baron Kronthal
Zar und Zimmermann                    Marquis de Chateauneuf
Die Zauberflöte                       Tamino

b)	Oratorio and symphonic works

Beethoven                             Ninth symphony
Berlioz                               Fausts Verdammung
Haydn                                 Seasons
Händel                                Messias
Liszt                                 Faust-Symphonie
Mahler                                Lied von der Erde
Verdi                                 Messa da Requiem

c)	Lieder (cycles) 

Beethoven                             An die ferne Geliebte
Schubert                              Die schöne Müllerin
Schubert                              Winterreise
Schumann                              Dichterliebe

d)	Operetta

Die Dorothee                          Klaus Engelberg
Die Fledermaus                        Alfred, Eisenstein
Die Geisha                            Leutnant
Gräfin Mariza                         Tassilo
Karneval in Rom                       Artur Bryck
Das Land des Lächelns                 Sou Chong
Liebe im Dreiklang                    Mucki Nix
Der Opernball                         Max Haßler
Orpheus un der Unterwelt              Orpheus
Paganini                              Paganini
Polenblut                             Graf Baranski
Die Puppe                             Lancelot
Die schöne Helena                     Ajax II
Wiener Blut                           Sekretär
Der Zigeunerbaron                     Barinkay

Peter Anders sings Der Mantel: Ja, du hast recht
In RA Format

Peter Anders sings Ständchen
In RA Format

Peter Anders sings Otello: Duo Act 1, with Sena Jurinac
In RA Format

Peter Anders sings Die Zauberflöte: Dies Bildnis
In RA Format

5. References:

Kösters, Ferdinand: Peter Anders, Biographie eines Tenors. Stuttgart 1995
Orpheus No. 10/1988
Pauli, Friedrich: Peter Anders. Berlin 1963
Stimmen, die um die Welt gingen, No. 16, 22, 70, 73

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