Anton Bruno Michael Balluff

Picture of  Anton Bruno Michael Balluff
This Website has another picture and another (more private) biography of his, under "Persönlichkeiten" (no possibility to link there directly, sorry). It is possible that he never recorded.
Balluff was born on October 6th. 1846 in Oberkochen , as son of a schoolteacher Konrad Balluff. When he was 12 years old, he started study to be a teacher in Ellwangen and took his test in 1862. Balluff joins the army voluntarily and played in the army orchestra as trombonist. The conductor of the orchestra, Ritter, made for Balluff possible, at the army's cost, to learn violin and cello. Ritter discovered his voice and introduced him to the organist of the cathedral, Diefenbach, who made possible for Balluff to sing in the Münster chorus in Ulm. Later the governor of Ulm, Graf Wilhelm von Urach, made it possible for Balluff to join the Theater chorus. After six years, the singer left the army. In 1869, he joined the Stuttgart Hofoper chorus thanks to Heinrich Sondheim.

Not satisfied, Balluff took singing lessons with Josef Schütky, Franz Pischeck and later Padilla. However he had to wait sixteen years before his time finally arrived. On October 8th., 1885, the theater was waiting for a guest (whose name is not known) to arrive, and like Godot never showed up. Balluff was asked if he would sing Manrico. The 39 years chorister did not hesitate, and 2 days before his 39 years birthday became an Heldentenor of the Hofoper.

His first Wagner's part (Lohengrin, 23rd. October 1866) seems to have been a desperation’s act of the director, as reported by Allgemeinen Musikzeitung dated October 1866:

This experiment was very interesting, as Mr. Balluff almost 12 months ago was singing one the Brabant noble (besides singing in the chorus). In between singing in in-between parts such as Leopold and Lucentio, his good voice and hard work made the move up to the part Lohengrin not seem far fetched. After the performance, the non-believers had to agree that the performance went well, however in our opinion several physical, cerebral and vocal improvements must happen, before Mr. Balluff can completely cover this poetical Wagner's role.
Balluff was well suited to parts that required good physical condition and voice, however in parts requiring more intellectual requirements he was not so successful. He had no acting abilities. He avoided all this life to sing Tristan as the psychology of the part escaped him. Other parts like Loge and Tannhäser were not in his capabilities. Als Lohengrin and Stolzing, his singing made up for his poor characterization.

Balluff was never mentioned in the different publications on Wagner's interprets. Only the critic Rudolph Kraus wrote a study on him:

Balluff steely and healthy voice allowed him to sing very difficult parts. This also was his weakness. Balluff's voice declined rather quickly, while he tried to remedy unsuccessfully the defects of his vocal studies. Another factor was that his loud vocal production pleased the public. A major problem was his ungainly body movements on stage. As an actor he was at the limit of the average tenor, while his legs and arms were stiffly bent forwards. Balluff was a tenor with a powerful and roaring organ. What he missed, he tried to remedy with hard work.
At the beginning of his career, Balluff undertook Rienzi, Erik, Tannhäuser, Siegmund, Tamino, Florestan, Max, Turiddu, Robert, Raoul, Radames and Eléazar. Despite his hard work, Balluff represents the level of the Stuttgart Opera at that time: the first Heldentenor was a strong voice chorister without acting abilities. When he was a chorister, he was a respected concert and oratorio singer. This tells us that he had a better vocal schooling than Rudolph Kraus described.

On December 4th. 1887, Balluff sang the Stuttgart premiere of the Meistersinger. He was Stuttgart's first Siegfried (Götterdämmerung) on March 7th. 1889 in honor of the King's birthday. The press commented that it was not a very special event. It took five more years for Balluff to be Stuttgart first Siegfried (January 9th. 1894). Five months later on May 29th. 1894, Balluff celebrated his 25th. stage anniversary with a performance of Il Trovatore, where at the end he was celebrated and rewarded with many honors. Until 1895, he was the first and only Heldentenor in Stuttgart. Balluff ended his career in 1904 singing Manrico, 35 years after his operatic debut as chorister and 19 years after his first solo appearance. 20 years later on December 4th. 1924, he died at 78 years old in Stuttgart.

Picture Source: Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main; site discovered by Robert Schlesinger.
Reference: Einhard Luther, So viel der Helden, Biographie eines stimmfaches Teil 3, Wagnertenöre der Kaiserzeit, (1871-1918)

Go back to Index