Artist Profile: Hermann Prey, Consummate Figaro

By David Salazar

Hermann Prey always seems to have a smile on in any photo that you might find of him.

The lyric baritone, born on July 11, 1929, grew up in Germany and studied voice at the Hochschule für Musik in Berlin.

In the early 1950s, he started singing recitals and would make his operatic debut at the Hessisches Staatstheater Wiesbaden before heading to the Hamburg State Opera, where he would sing until 1960. From there his career continued to grow and he became a fixture at the Metropolitan Opera and Bayreuth Festival.

Besides engaging in a solid operatic career, he also took on operettas, for which he was famous on German television. He also appeared as a consistent recitalist.

In 1982, he started teaching and even wrote an autobiography. He died in 1998.

Major Roles 

We could point to his work in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and we wouldn’t be wrong here as Prey was a major interpreter of the role as both the title character and the Count. He also directed the opera later in his life.

But I think you would have to turn to Rossini’s Figaro to really see Prey’s finest and most renowned interpretation. He recorded the work quite a number of times, and his solid technique and perfect diction made him a great fit for the comic timing of Rossini’s music.

Watch and Listen

Here he is as Figaro in one of opera’s most famous arias.

He was also a great Schubert interpreter and here is his famed recording of “Winterreise.”


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