René Kollo was one of the renowned Wagnerian tenors of the second half of the 20th century.
Born in Berlin on Nov. 20, 1937, he initially attended school for photography. In the mid-1950s, he performed in jazz clubs as a self-taught drummer. He studied acting and slowly but surely woke up to the realization of his talent as a singer.
At age 20, he signed his first contract and recorded popular hits. In 1965, at age 28, he made his opera debut in Braunschweig. He would make his Deutsche Oper am Rhein debut in 1967 and start appearing more frequently in other cities such as Munich, Milan, and Lisbon, among others.
His first at-bat in a Wagner role was the Helmsman in “Die Fliegende Holländer” in 1969. A year later, he took on Erik from the same opera, which was then followed by the title role in “Lohengrin.” By 1981, he had sung all the lead roles by the famed composer. He would go on to a career in all those roles all around the world.
In addition to his work in opera, Kollo has appeared on television in lighter repertoire such as operettas he himself composed.
He retired from singing in 2013.
The name Kollo is synonymous with the music of Richard Wagner. He has sung leading roles in such operas as “Lohengrin,” “Parsifal,” “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg,” “Tannhäuser,” “Tristan und Isolde,” and “Der Ring des Nibelungen.” He has recorded most of these operas.
Herbert von Karajan famously noted that Kollo had been the Walter von Stolzig (from “Die Meistersinger”) that he had been waiting for.
His affiliation with Wagner is so strong that he even directed “Parsifal” in Darmstadt in 1986.
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Watch and Listen
Here’s a performance of Kollo as “Siegfried.”
Here’s an interview with the tenor.