Theo Adam was one of the all-time great Wagnerian artists, dominating the opera stage between the 1940s and 90s. Born on August 1, 1926, his career featured quite an extensive repertoire, with Adam not only singing all the major Wagner roles for bass-baritone, but also making success incursions into Mozart, Beethoven, Strauss, and many other composers.
But for many Adam was rather brilliant and best-known for two particular interpretations. Here is a look at his most famous works.
Adam’s interpretation of the title character in Mendelssohn’s famed oratorio is legend. Just look at this review from Gramophone regarding the famed recording with Wolgang Sawallisch: “Listening to it afresh, Adam’s forthright, authoritative Elijah must be preferred to that of [Alastair] Miles ([Kurt] Masur). His German is obviously more idiomatic; so is his experience of the role––compare them in ‘Herr Gott Abrahams’ or ‘Ist nicht des Herrn Wort?’, where Adam delivers the Handelian line with incisive, direct attack.”
And for the most part, any review of a new recording the oratorio is usually met with some comparison with the Adam interpretation.
This is the role with which he made his Met Opera debut, singing seven total performances as Hans Sachs in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” While some might contend that he was better known as Wotan in “Der Ring des Nibelungen,” his more delicate timbre is in many ways more suitable to the master singing poet than a God. In fact, his most famous recording is none other than the “Meistersinger” with Herbert von Karajan that also featured Rene Kollo and Helen Donath, among others. Reviews for this recording are overwhelmingly positive. Here is Music Web International review, which hits the point quite well on Adams’ interpretation: “He delivers the monologues with the simplicity of a lieder singer. Different from some predecessors who bring more heft and heat to those passages, but Sachs is the greatest of all the Mastersinger,” the review claims. “Therefore a quiet and subtle presence, an assurance, is an aspect of the part that works very well and that is what you get with Adam.”
What is your favorite Theo Adam role? Tell us in the comments below.