Artist Profile: Siegfried Jerusalem, Wagnerian Hero

By David Salazar

Siegfried Jerusalem could not have been better named.

The Oberhausen native, born on April 17, 1940, would grow up to be one of the great 20th century interpreters of his namesake in Wagner’s famed “Der Ring des Nibelungen.”

The tenor actually studied piano, violin, and bassoon in his formative years and started his career as a bassoon player. Eventually, at age 31, he started his vocal training and four years later launched his career when he stepped in for tenor Franco Bonisolli on last minute’s notice.

His first major role was prophetic – “Lohengrin” in 1976. A year later, he debuted at Bayreuth, a festival where he would perform extensively.

In 1997, the tenor was presented with the Federal Cross of Merit and in 1999, he gave his final performances at the Bayreuth Festival in the title role of “Tristan und Isolde.”

Top Roles

As noted, the name makes the man and Jerusalem was a Wagnerian hero through and through. The tenor took on virtually every single Wagner hero available to him.

At the height of his career, he was the go-to Siegfried in Wagner’s Ring, famously recording the opera at the Metropolitan Opera. In that immortal version, which is available on DVD, the tenor takes on the roles of Siegfried in the third and fourth opera of the tetralogy, as well as Loge in “Das Rheingold.”

He was also a renowned Tristan and his interpretation is preserved on a famed recording under maestro Daniel Barenboim alongside Waltraud Meier.


Other Articles on Siegfried Jerusalem

The Contrasting Met Careers of Gianni Raimondi and Siegfried Jerusalem 

Watch and Listen

No surprises here. Wagner, Wagner, Wagner. Below you will have a chance to hear a full recording of “Tristan und Isolde” as well as “Parsifal.”


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