Last weekend you were treated to some music that was supposed to expemplify naffness, but I was surprised by how many of you admitted to liking the Smurfs. Oh well. This weekend, slightly later than planned due to a last-minute change in my arrangements with Helena, I'm going to move to the opposite extreme.
For me at least. I suspect that most of you will prefer the Smurfs, in which case please feel free to read and play last week's post again, just as long as you leave a totally irrelevant comment on this one.
Richard Tauber was born in Austria in 1891. He was the illegitimate son of an actor and actress, and he became one of the most famous tenors of all time. He sang in operas as well as in the lighter Viennese Operettas. Franz Lehar, who is famous for composing the Merry Widow, ended up writing a string of successful operettas featuring Tauber as the main romantic lead.
I was born 22 years after he died, and I find it strange to imagine him as a romantic lead. I expect you had to be there. He was overweight, limped, wore a monacle and apparently wasn't much of an actor. Nevertheless, he charmed both opera and operetta audiences, as well as starring in films.
The reason that he limped (and possibly the reason for his bulk) was because he was struck down in his 20s with crippling arthritis. Doctors said that his singing career was over, but he ignored them and carried on anyway. He was in constant pain for the rest of his life.
If this wasn't bad enough, he was forced to flee Germany (where he was working) in 1933 after being roughed up by some Nazis (he was Jewish). Once Austria was taken over in 1938 his citizenship was revoked, making him stateless. He ended up getting British nationality, where he lived until he died of lung cancer in 1948, at the age of 56.
He generally performed for a flat fee rather than royalties, and was apparently very generous with his money (when he had it), throwing parties for his friends and buying extravagant gifts for women (he particularly liked redheads). He was always on the road performing, never owned a house, and died in poverty.
Richard Tauber was not a great singer considering all he suffered in his life, he was one of the greatest full stop. I'm not a great fan of Viennese operetta, or sentimental 20's and 30's love songs, but I'd listen to him singing "ten green bottles" or Garage Rap, if necessary.
Fortunately he left behind a large number of recordings, and even more fortunately none of them were of "Ten Green Bottles", or Garage Rap. He was a lyric tenor, which means that he was very good singing Mozart and German lieder, which require a lighter voice than Pavarotti or Caruso.
Here is my all-time favourite recording, made in 1939, of "Il mio tesoro", from Mozart's Don Giovanni, which comes out very well in this YouTube video, even if the pictures of someone's hi-fi system aren't hugely exciting.