Lebendige Vergangenheit - Lorenz Fehenberger

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

A career like that of Lorenz Fehenberger, who for many decades was Munich's all-round tenor, nowadays seems hardly possible - apart from the fact that singing careers in an operatic world without the tradition of an ensemble do not include terms, such as "long­ term" or "versatile". "A prophet is not without honor save in his own country" - in his hometown, Oberweidbach/Germany, everybody was ready to admit that "Lenz" Fehenberger was not a bad singer, but all were in agreement that his father had sung much better. Young Fehenberger had never been able to judge that himself: he had lost his parents at a very early age and grew up as an orphan. At the age of four he was trained to read music by Mr. Anneser, the director of the church choir at Feichten/Chiemgau, later he was taught harmony, organ and choral singing by Bogenberger, the parish priest from Tegernbach and became a choir singer at the monastery of Altötting, where he also met his future wife. Fehenberger's first singing teacher set high hopes in her pupil and sent him to a singing contest held by Munich's Reichstheaterkammer. Accompanied by a young repetiteur named Wolfgang Sawallisch, he sang Nemorino's aria from "L'Elisir d' Amore" and won the first prize. The director of the choir at Munich's State Opera, Kugler, would have engaged the young tenor gladly, but the Music director, Uttlinger, from Altötting advised his inexperienced pupil to seriously study singing first and introduced him to the famous heldentenor from Munich, Otto Wolf. Elisabeth Hölldobler-Wolf, wife of the famous "Kammersänger" and herself an active singer at Bayreuth during tlie times of Cosima Wagner, from now on took over his vocal training. Fehenberger did not have his own place to live, his duties at the monastery of Altötting kept him very busy and the drives to Munich for every singing lessori. were so strenuous and time consuming that in September 1938 the singer-couple decided to "adopt" him. Everything went very fast from then on: in 1939 Fehenberger signed his first contract at the Opera House in Graz/Austria, where he built up a repertory which included various operetta­ roles as well as Fenton, Nemorino, Baron Kronthal, Cavaradossi, Faust and Max. In 1942 he went to Dresden and there witnessed the temporary end of German operatic tradition caused by "total War". Luckily, he escaped a draft into the "Volkssturm" in 1944 and was able to reach his hometown, together with his wife, after the destruction of Dresden on February 13th 1945. On September 29th 1945 he reassumed his career in Munich. At the first operatic concert after the War at the Prinzregententheater he was heard with Rodolfo's aria from "La Boheme" and in the "Antonia-act" from "Les Contes d'Hoffmann" with Maud Cunitz and Karl Kronenberg conducted by Otto Wirthensohn. Until the end of his career the tenor remained at the now-called Bavarian State Opera. His repertory during the first post-war years was nearly unlimited: in 1945/46 he sang Florestan, Rodolfo, Pedro, Hoffmann, Pinkerton and Max, in 1946/47 he added Cavaradossi, Hans in "Die verkaufte Braut", Tamino, Don Jose and Lenski. The following years saw him as Count Almaviva, Hans Schwalb in "Mathis der Maler", Boris in "Katja Kabanova", Rinuccio, Alvaro, Manrico, Radames, Riccardo in "Un Ballo in Maschera", Alfredo in "La Traviata", Manrico (where he often had to repeat the stretta twice) and Faust. From operas by Richard Strauss he sang the roles of Bacchus, Leukippos, Apoll and the singer in "Rosenkavalier" and his Wagner repertory included the more lyric roles of Erik, Lohengrin and Stolzing. At the Salzburg Festival in 1949 he appeared as Hämon in Carl Orff's "Antigonae" and at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in 1951 he sang the role of Golo in Schumann's "Genoveva". In Vienna he was heard regularly until 1954 as Alvaro, Radames, Cavaradossi, Don Jose, Äpollo, Lohengrin and Stolzing. Appearances at the Teatro Colon in 1951 in the roles of Lohengrin, Aegisth, in "Elektra" and Laca in "Jenufa" were to remain his only performances overseas. Fehenberger's vocal resources surely would have deserved a more international career, but he never attached much importance to singing abroad. In London and Tokyo he was only heard in guest perfonilances of the Munich Opera House. From 1950 on, he was an irreplacable member of the Munich Opera Festival, where he mainly sang works by Wagner and Richard Strauss, but his most famous portrayal was Palestrina, in which he succeded his famous predecessors Karl Erb, Fritz Krauß and Julius Patzak. Another unforgettable achievement at the Munich Opera House was Fehenberger's impersonation of the title role in Janacek's opera "Herr Broucek". When the Prinzregententheater was closed in 1963 Fehenberger withdrew more and more to smaller parts. On July 28th he sang the role of Monsieur Triquet in a new production of "Bugen Onegin" at the Munich Opera Festival and gave his final performance on July 31st as the landlord in "Der Rosenkavalier" with a ringing b flat when he announced "Frau Feldmarschallin". He retumed to the stage one more time in 1979, again during the Munich Opera Festival, and had his last big success on July 15th at the Theater im Marstall on the occasion of the world premiere of "Hiob" by Wilfried Hiller. The final years of Fehenberger's life were marked by a serious illness. He died on July 28th 1984 shortly before his 72nd birthday in Munich and was deeply moumed by his pupils, friends and admirers. Fehenberger was one of the last representatives of the ensemble, which resumed and continued operatic tradition in Munich after its collapse in 1945. The Ensemble in Munich was among the last ones in Germany to carry something like an intact ensemble well into the sixties of the 20th century.