Lebendige Vergangenheit - Richard Schubert
Richard Schubert, the celebrated tenor and interpreter of Richard Wagner's romantic heroes, embodied a new ideal of the Heldentenor. His predecessors - Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Albert Niemann, later Erik Schmedes, Ernst Kraus and Heinrich Knote - were renowned not least for their voluminous physique and commensurate voices. Schubert in turn, bad a clearly focused, shining voice that enabled him to penetrate the mighty forces of a Wagner Orchestra. Especially lauded, however, was bis youthfully ideal stage appearance with which he managed to do full justice to the magic of his roles. Thus it is no surprise that it was Richard Strauss who actually discovered him. In one of the Nuremberg "Rosenkavalier" productions conducted by him the musician accompanying the tenor in the aria of the "singer" attracted his attention because of his extraordinary histrionic ability. Strauss was later told that said flautist was a student who was studying singing in order later to become a baritone. He decided to keep an eye on him. Nevertheles he could hardly have known that this young man was subsequently to become one of the most celebrated Heldentenors of the Vienna State Opera. Initially Schubert sang minor baritone roles in Strassburg; bis well-developed top range soon showed which way bis career was to turn. Eventually he managed the transition to the tenor repertoire and he subsequently sang in Nuremberg, Wiesbaden and Hamburg, learning the most important Heldentenor roles as well as many lyric roles. Even when he was celebrated as a Heldentenor he. still continued to sing lyric roles where he could relax and "oil" his voice. While in Hamburg he owed a lot to Egon Pollack, then the intendant of the opera. There, on December 4, 1920, he also sang the tenor lead in the world premiere of Komgold's "Die tote Stadt", a role in which he was subsequently acclaimed in Vienna. In April 1920 Schubert was engaged to sing five performances in Vienna. His Radames initially did not quite fulfill expectations as the Viennese were accustomed to the huge voice of Leo Slezak. Yet he managed to convince as Walter, Tannhäuser and Pedro in "Tiefland". A further guest appearance in the tetralogy of the Ring finally convinced all and sundry that here was a grandiose successor to Erik Schmedes, whose style, however, recalled rather the latter's predecessor Hermann Winkelmann. Unfortunately, Schubert could only be signed up for brief periods of time in each case which were used for cyclical performances of Wagner operas. Hence his excursions into the lyric repertoire were few and far between. Also in Richard Strauss' operas he was acclaimed. Thus he was an impressive Bacchus in "Ariadne auf Naxos" (convincing, both in appearance and demeanor as the young God - disappointed and hence suspicious after his Circe adventure - and his subsequent metamorphosis into a fiery young lover), an other-wordly Emperor in "Frau ohne Schatten", a neurotic Herod in Salome, a cowardly scheming Aegisth in "Elektra" or a confused but nevertheless determinedly heroic Menelas in "Agyptische Helena". His artistry was evident also as Samson in "Samson et Dalila", Achill in "Iphigenie in Aulis" and Siegnot in Pfitzner's "Rose vom Liebesgarten". One special curiosity worth mentioning is that this Heldentenor was also an elegant and highly flamboyant Eisenstein in "Fledermaus". However, his vital repertoire remained the Wagner oeuvre - from Rienzi to Parsifal. The excessive demands he made on his voice by singing such an exhausting repertoire all over the world led to a vocal crisis in 1927. A recuperation period turned out to be too brief for him to regain his vocal health completely. Nevertheless admiration was widespread how the artist managed to identify with his roles and thus camouflage his vocal deterioration - so much so, in fact that criticism seemed mere carping. In May 1929 he left Vienna but frequently appeared as a guest artist, acclaimed by his numerous supporters - both male and, more frequently, female. The phenomenon of his charisma was the secret of his artistry. Thus he frequently appeared as Siegfried and in the last phase of his career, more and more often as Eisenstein, a role in which this glorious Heldentenor last appeared in Vienna on February 15, 1937. After terminating his career he started directing operas and ultimately taught singing in Hamburg. He died on October 27, 1958 in Oberstaufen in the Allgäu.