Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers
Forgotten Tenors: Leon Laffitte (2 photos), Richard Kubla, Luigi Marletta and William Miller

Dec 28, 2013

Willi Birrenkoven (Tenor) (Köln 1865 – Hanstedt 1955)




From 1884 to 1888 he studied singing at the conservatory of Köln. He made his debut in 1888 at the Opera House of Dusseldorf. From 1890 to 1893 he appeared at the Opera House of Köln, from 1893 to 1912 at the Municipal Theatre of Hamburg. Here he sang among other things in the premieres of the operas ‘’Die Brautwahl’’  of  F. Busoni (1902) and ‘’Sternengebot’’ of Siegfried Wagner (1908). He became known in particular as an famous interpreter of R. Wagner's operas; In  1894 at the Bayreuth festival he appeared in ‘’Lohengrin’’ and ‘’Parsifal’’. Guest performances followed in London, Vienna (1904. Court Opera, Canio in ‘’Pagliacci’’), Amsterdam, Berlin, Munich, Karlsruhe, Hannover, Köln,  Frankfurt a. M. and Bremen. His most important stage roles were the Florestan in ‘’Fidelio’’, Max in ‘’Freischütz’’,  Siegmund in ‘’Walkure’’, Siegfried in ‘’Der Ring des Nibelungen’’, Tannhäuser in ‘’Tannhauser’’, Tristan in ‘’Tristan und isolde’’, Pedro in ‘’Tiefland’’ of E. d'Albert, Otello in Verdi’s ‘’Otello’’, Siegnot in ‘’ Die Rose vom Liebesgarten’’ of Hans Pfitzner and Samson in ‘’Samson et Dalila’’ of Saint-Saëns. he made numerous concert tours in Europe and America. He performed a total of 1500 performances and his annual salary eventually amounted to a total of 25, 000 marks from 1900 to 1906. At the beginning of the century, he was one of the world's leading tenors. Among his admirers were Gustav Mahler, Eugen d'Albert and Ruggero Leoncavallo among others. On 30 May 1912, Birrenkoven gave his farewell performance as Tannhauser. Then he moved to Bochum, where he took up the post of Director at the local opera house. This proved to be a fiasco for him. Construction of the new opera house was incomplete and the current opera house was inadequate for a fully-equipped opera ensemble to sing in. Not only was the post a fiasco, Birrenkoven also suffered serious financial losses as he lost the 50, 000 marks which he invested in the opera house. Birrenkoven later returned to Hamburg, where he was forced to work as a singing teacher to make ends meet. In addition to this income, he received a small pension from the Hamburg State Opera, a monthly honorarium of 100 marks. In the 1930s, he retired to Hanstedt where he died in 1955. His brothers, Fritz Birrenkoven (1876-1939) and The third brother, Franz Birrenkoven,  was also a known opera tenors.

Chronology of some appearances

1888 Dusseldorf Opera House
1890-1893 Köln Opera House
1893-1912 Hamburg Municipal Theatre
1894 Bayreuth festival Lohengrin (Lohengrin)
1904 Vienna Court Opera Pagliacci (Canio)

RECORDINGS FOR SALE








Gramophone, Hamburg 1907
Prophète (Meyerbeer): Triumphgesang  3-42992 3970r

Pathé, Berlin 1908?
Tannhäuser (Wagner): Loblied 14803



















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