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 Obituary, Theo Adam (1926-2019)

Theo Adam The great German bass Theo Adam, particularly renowned for his Strauss and Wagner roles, has died in Dresden aged 92.

Born in Dresden on 1st August 1926, Adam began singing as a boy chorister in the Dresdner Kreuzchor and trained with Rudolf Dietrich after serving in World War II; he made his professional debut in a small role in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov (in which he would go on to sing the title-role) in 1949, and began a long association with the Bayreuth Festival (where his roles would include Titurel, Pogner, the Dutchman and Wotan) in the early 1950s. By the early 1970s he was appearing regularly at Covent Garden (where he debuted as Wotan in 1967) and the Metropolitan Opera in roles such as Hans Sachs, Pizarro and Wozzeck; he also enjoyed a close relationship with the Wiener Staatsoper, where he continued to appear in smaller roles until his early seventies.

In addition to his core repertoire, Adam was active in contemporary music, creating Prospero in Berio’s 1984 opera Un re in ascolto, and the title-roles in Friedrich Cerha’s Baal and Paul Dessau’s Einstein. After retiring from stage work, he devoted himself to teaching (chiefly at the Musikhochschule in Dresden) and writing, publishing numerous books on his career and the roles which he had sung, and contributing to volumes including The Metropolitan Opera Encyclopaedia and The New Grove Dictionary of Opera throughout the 1980s and 90s.

Adam recorded most of his Wagner roles at least once (often with the Staatskapelle Dresden); his extensive discography also includes Kaspar in Carlos Kleiber’s recording of Der Freischütz, Herr Morosus on Marek Janowski’s Die schweigsame Frau and Baron Ochs on Karl Böhm’s Der Rosenkavalier, as well as numerous oratorio recordings.

Theo Adam - a selected discography

Theo Adam (Sir Morosus), Eberhard Büchner (Henry Morosus), Jeanette Scovotti (Aminta); Staatskapelle Dresden, Marek Janowski

'Adam's Sir Morosus is the outstanding reason for possessing this set. His singing is firm and true throughout and he gives a marvellous characterization of the old seadog who sighs for a quiet life and is plagued by just the opposite.' (Gramophone)

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Theo Adam (Dutchman), Anja Silja (Senta), Martti Talvela (Daland), Ernst Kozub (Erik); BBC Chorus & New Philharmonia Orchestra, Otto Klemperer

'Adam sings from the depth of his soul but without sacrificing Wagner’s still-somewhat-Italianate line.' (Classics Today)

Available Format: 2 CDs

Theo Adam (Wotan/Wanderer), Jeannine Altmeyer (Brünnhilde), René Kollo (Siegfried), Siegfried Jerusalem (Siegmund), Jessye Norman (Sieglinde)

'Adam is at his very best as the wise, old Wanderer.' (Gramophone)

Available Formats: 14 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Christa Ludwig (Marschallin), Tatiana Troyanos (Octavian), Edith Mathis (Sophie), Theo Adam (Ochs); Wiener Philharmoniker, Karl Böhm

'He is clearly vastly experienced in how to the bring out the comedy of his role, exuding the avuncular ease of a wholly good-humoured sexist pig rather than a caricatured monster.' (MusicWeb International)

Available Formats: 3 CDs, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

Theo Adam (bass), Elly Ameling (soprano), Annelies Burmeister (alto), Peter Schreier (tenor); Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Wolfgang Sawallisch

'From his entry at the very start of the work, Theo Adam exerts his authority and presents the epitome of an Old Testament prophet, at once implacable and tortured.' (Gramophone)

Available Formats: MP3, CD Quality FLAC