Artist Profile: Legendary Wagnerian Theo Adam

By David Salazar

Born on August 1, 1926, Theo Adam would go on to be a major Wagnerian bass-baritone of the 20th century.

Adam was born in Dresden and spent his formative years as a member of the Dresdner Kreuzchor before serving in the German Army during World War II. However, after the war ended, he resumed his musical studies and eventually made his professional debut in 1949 in his hometown at the Semperoper Dresden before becoming a member of the singing roster at the Berlin State Opera. In 1952, he was at Bayreuth and the rest is history. He would return annually for years, each time taking on more noted roles until in 1963, he appeared as Wotan in “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”

His interpretation of Wotan would take him the Royal Opera House in 1967 while the role of Don Giovanni in Mozart’s masterpiece would earn him his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1972. It was another Wagner role, that of Hans Sachs that got him a debut at the Met in 1969.

While Wagner dominated his career, the bass-baritone also appeared in numerous world premieres including “Baal,” “Einstein,” and “Un re in ascolto.”

He left a diverse discography and was named Kammersänger of Austria in 1979.  He also won the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau and the National First Prize of the German Democratic Republic.

Signature Roles

The bass-baritone was renowned for his interpretations of Hans Sachs in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg” and Wotan in “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” He also had a lengthy trajectory singing the title role in Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.” He was also a beloved interpreter of Bach’s music.

Read More on Adam

Read More on his best-known roles

Watch and Listen

Give his “Die Walküre” from Bayreuth a listen.

And here is the first part of his famed “Elijah” interpretation.


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