Lebendige Vergangenheit - Bernd Aldenhoff

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Lebendige Vergangenheit

The name, Bernd Aldenhoff, may arouse in elderly opera lovers not only the memory of the excellent singing actor, himself, but also the memory of bygone times, when every opera house had an intact ensemble and every major one had at least one heldentenor. If someohe had tried to find an adequate Siegmund in 1954, for example, he could have chosen among the following singers, who were all under contract between Hamburg, Zurich and Vienna: Peter Anders, Hans Beirer, Ludwig Suthaus, Günther Treptow, Heinz Kraayvanger, Hans Hopf, Wilhelm Ernest, Walter Beißner, Franz Lechleitner, Max Lorenz, Adam Fendt, Anton John, Joachim Sattler, Ferdinand Bürgmann, Rudolf Lustig, August Seider, Willi Störring, Josef Walden, Georg Faßnacht, Paul Kachelrieß, Sebastian Feiersinger, Karl Liebl or Wolfgang Windgassen - to name but internationally known singers. The cynical remark by Hans Knappertsbusch, that "the aristocratic species of the heldentenor" had become extinct intimes ofrepublic, seems tobe not so far-fetched: when the generation of Lorenz, Suthaus and Svanholm retired from the heavy Wagner-roles, those were left without equal successors. Bernd Aldenhoff was not only one of the last, but also one of the most interesting representatives of the heldenfach, which started to vanish around 1960. Born in Duisburg on June 14th 1903 - not 1908 as given frequently - as the son of a carpenter, he grow up in an orphanage and in 1928 was engaged at the opera chorus of the "Vereinigte Stadttheater Duisburg-Bochum". Passing through Stuttgart he came to the opera chorus of Cologne in 1931 and was offered an additional contract for small solo-parts. His professional career as a tenor started in 1933. Already early in his career his sometimes unconventional acting led to differences of opinion between himself and the stage director, Walter Felsenstein. In 1934 Aldenhoff moved on to Darmstadt and in 1935 signed a contract with the Opera House,of Erfurt, which already included roles from the heldenfach. His first appearance at a summer festival took place in 1936 at the Bergwaldtheater Weißenburg, where he sang the Duke in "Rigoletto" and retumed for Max in "Der Freischütz" in 1937. Aldenhoff's engagement in Düsseldorf in 1938 became his real breakthrough: he opened the season on September 17th 1938 as Stolzing "with astonishing dramatic impact" as Friedrich Herzog from the "Rheinische Landeszeitung" wrote. One year later he was a "radiant Siegmund" in guest performances of the Düsseldorf Opera in Amsterdam, Den Haag and Rotterdam. In the summer of 1939 he sang Tannhäuser at the Zoppot Wagner­ Festival, in 1940 he appeared as.Lohengrin, Pedro and Stolzing at the Wagner-stronghold Munich. As Tannhäuser in Dresden in March 1943 he left a strong enough impression to be engaged as successor to Torsten Ralf and Joachim Sattler. In 1943 he also made his debut in two roles, which later were to become his most established ones: young Siegfried in March in Düsseldorf and "Götterdämmerung"-Siegfried on July pt in Trier. In 1944 he moved to Dresden in time to see German theatres closed by "total war" and witness the destruction of Dresden on February 13th 1945. Since Wagner operas were not in demand during the first years which followed the War when musical life in Dresden was slowly re-established, Aldenhoff was able to demonstrate his versatility: between 1945 and 1949 he sang Florestan, Bacchus, Riccardo in "Un Ballo in Maschera", Rodolfo in "La Boheme", Hoffmann, Pedro, Otello, Cavaradossi, Hermann in "Pique Dame", Pinkerton, Herodes, Canio and Dimitri. In April 1949 he finally was able to return to Wagner in the role of Tannhäuser. In the same year he appeared as Siegmund in Leipzig in a production of "Die Walküre" by former Bayreuth baritone, Walter Soomer. His last premiere in Dresden was "Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg" on April 9th 1950. In May 1950 he made guest appearances in Vienna as Lohengrin, Stolzing, Tannhäuser and Otello. A contract which had already been prepared in detail was foiled by the intrigues of a colleague from Dresden, who, although they were no immediate competitors, seemed to envy him for his success. Aldenhoff s appearance as Tannhäuser in a guest performance in Munich on December 28th 1950 definitely established him as one of the leading Wagner-tenors. In Munich and Bayreuth he was the first "post war-Siegfried" and for almost a decade he became one of the most sought after Wagner singers in Milan, London, New York and Paris. By no means did Aldenhoff restrict his repertoire to Wagner: in Munich and in guest appearances, too, he kept in his repertoire the roles of Radames, Don Jose, Max, Pedro and Florestan as well as the Strauss-roles Aegisth, Menelas and Herodes in "Salome", which was his most accomplished character study. His favorite role, however, which also was his most successful one outside the Wagner repertory, was Verdi's Otello. In this, too, Aldenhoff was in correspondence with his great idol, Max Lorenz, whose legitimate successor he became at Bayreuth in 1951. Hans Knappertsbusch called him the most "human heldentenor" of his days. As an interpreter, Aldenhoff was, without a doubt, the most "detailed" and sensitive Wagner-tenor of his generation. Exactly this probably was the main reason, why he could not cope with "modern" stage direction, ...