(1908 - 1954)
Anders: The Regime's Tenor
|"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
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.
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.
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' 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
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.
Peter 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.
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.
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
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
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.
But 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
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.
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.
On September 5, 1954 Anders was seriously injured in a
car accident. He passed away on September 10, 1954, at the peak of his
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' 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.
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
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