Richard Tauber
b. Ernst Seiffert



MAY 16, 1891 - JAN 8, 1948

Richard Tauber was born in Linz, Austria, the illegitimate son of Richard Anton Tauber and Elisabeth Seiffert. His father was an actor and theatre director, his mother a widowed actress. The boy was raised by his mother until he was seven and later by his father, who officially gave Richard his name. Tauber's early association with the theatre no doubt contributed to the development of his enormous musical talent.

Tauber made his debut at Chemnitz in 1913 where he sang the roles of Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and Max in Der Freischütz. He was quickly engaged for major roles at the Dresden Opera, where he stayed until 1926. This time to join the Vienna Staatsoper. Within a decade he had sung on most of the world's great operatic stages. He gained a reputation as a quick learner and strong performer, which lead to his nickname as the "S.O.S. Tenor." His sweet and superbly managed voice, full of musicianship, was especially well suited for the Mozartian tenor roles. Fame came almost instantly for him.

From 1923-32 he became a well known singer of operetta, especially the roles associated with his famous collaboration with Franz Lehár. Tauber sang the leading male roles in the Lehár operettas - each of which traditionally included a "Tauber song" composed especially for the tenor. Through these roles he became the best known and most popular singer in Germany and Austria. Unlike most of his operatic peers at this time, Tauber had also gained a stunning reputation as both a critically acclaimed composer and conductor. He was known to have completed an orchestral suite, two operettas and dozens of art songs.

Tauber's father was half Jewish, which was enough for the Nazis to condemn him. Despite his fame and popularity, the singer had to flee Hitler's Germany, and later, Austria. Britain welcomed him, however, and Tauber made his permanent home in England. There he continued to sing in opera and operetta, appeared regularly on radio programs and in concerts, made motion pictures, composed, conducted and recorded. He remained in London for the rest of his years, until his untimely death in 1948.

Tauber, being as popular as he was, completed a total of 735 commercial recordings. Additionally, numerous private recordings and air checks are also known to exist. His recordings include opera, operetta, art song, popular tunes and novelties. Tauber loved opera, but he believed that popular music was also worth performing. In his later years, his concerts were divided between serious and light music. Tauber was often critcised for his mixture of serious art with popular songs, but rather than defiling the former, he dignified the latter. No other singer could make their performance of popular music sound so important.

Richard Tauber made his last stage apperance as Ottavio in Don Giovanni, with the Vienna State Opera performing at Covent Garden on September 27, 1947 Anton Dermota stepped down to allow what everyone knew would be his operatic swansong.  He had been fighting a battle with cancer for quite some time. During this final performance, his left lung was nearly consumed by cancer, but this did not stop him from giving one of the greatest performances of his life. Those who attended the performance or listened to the broadcast can attest that Tauber remained a great and dedicated artist to the very last.

The Anglo-Austrian Music Society presented a Memorial Concert at the Royal Albert Hall on 20 February 1948, featuring  music by and associated with Tauber.  The BBC Theatre Orchestra was conducted by Adrian Boult, the Society’s patron, and Walter Goehr.  Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, David Franklin, Constance Shacklock and the Luton Girls’ Choir all sang.  The proceeds were modest, but the Luton Girls’ Choir had worked regularly with Tauber in his last years and were very moved by his death, generously donating all the royalties of their last joint recording, an extremely popular 78 that enabled the AAMS to establish the Richard Tauber Memorial Scholarship. Auditions were held in 1950 but no award was made, Elisabeth Schumann deciding that no singer came up to her friend Richard Tauber’s high standard.  Further auditions were held in 1951 and every two or three years from then on.

Useful link where you will find one of the most comprehensive collections of the recordings of this most famous tenor - Richard Tauber.

For more information on Richard Tauber, please see the fascinating chapter on the singer in the highly acclaimed book
“More Legendary Voices” by Nigel Douglas   published by Andre Deutsch.