Erich Kleiber’s Impact on the Opera World

By David Salazar

Erich Kleiber is widely considered one of the great conductors of the mid-20th century. Born on August 5, 1890, he was in love with Wagner’s art from his childhood, playing piano transcriptions from such works as “Lohengrin” and “Tristan.” He would go on to a legendary career, particularly in the world of opera, where he had a truly profound impact.

Here is a look at his major moments in the history of opera.


Kleiber was the man to lead the first-ever performance of Alban Berg’s great opera, “programming it on his own initiative” at the Berlin State Opera. He also led the first-ever German performance of Janacek’s “Jenufa.”


Kleiber, a champion of the music of Berg, was on hand to perform the Symphonic Suite of “Lulu,” before the opera was ever finished. But when the piece was condemned for being degenerate music, Kleiber renounced from his post at the Berlin State Opera in protest.

Teatro Colón

After leaving Nazi Germany and finding his way around a number of major cities, the conductor wound up in Buenos Aires where he became the music director of the Teatro Colón between 1936-1949, ultimately becoming an Argentine citizen in 1938.

2 Legendary Recordings

The Maestro left his fair share of great recordings behind, but two are often cited as being among the greatest of their respective opera. The first of these is a 1955 recording of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” which stars Cesare Siepi, Hilde Gueden, Suzanne, Danco, Hilde Rössi-Majda, Fernando Corena, Lisa Della Casa, Alfred Poell, Murray Dickie, and Anny Felbermayer. Kleiber conducts the Vienna Philharmonic in the recording. Gramophone Magazine included it among the greatest recordings of all time.

The other famous recording is a 1954 edition of “Der Rosenkavalier,” which features Maria Reining, Ludwig Weber, Sena Jurinac, Erich Majkut, August Jaresch, Franz Bierbach, Walter Berry, Anton Dermota, Hilde Rössl-Majdan, Peter Klein, Judith Hellwig, Alfred Poell, Berta Seidl, and Hilde Gueden. Again, Kleiber leads the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.



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