Artist Profile: Günther Treptow

German tenor Günther Treptow established himself as one of the leading heldentenors of his generation. His voice was renowned for its warm, dark and expressive tone and penetrating dramatic power, making it ideal for Wagnerian roles such as Siegmund, Siegfried, Tristan and Parsifal.

Born in Berlin in 1907, Treptow later studied at the Berlin Academy of Music and with Giovanni Scarmeo in Milan before making his debut at the Deutsches Opernhaus Berlin in 1936 as the Italian singer in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. In the Third Reich, Treptow was a member of the SA and the Nazi Party from 1926 until 1934, when his mother’s Jewish heritage was discovered. He was banned from performing until 1935, when he received special permission from Joseph Goebbels.

At first he sang minor roles, but in 1942 he had decisive successes in the title role of Verdi’s Otello and as Max in Weber’s Der Freischütz. In 1938 he sang Florestan in Fidelio at the opening of the Vienna Volksoper and a year later he sang Tannhäuser at the Sopot Festival. From 1940 he was a member of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, where he specialised mainly in Wagner and from 1947-55 he was a member of the Vienna State Opera. Guest appearances took him to La Scala in Milan (1950 as Siegmund), to Covent Garden Opera in London (1953 as Siegfried) and to theatres in France, Spain and Switzerland. In the 1950-51 season he made his debut (as Siegmund) at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he later sang Tristan and Florestan. At the Bayreuth Festival in 1951 and 1952 he sang Siegmund under the baton of Joseph Keilberth. In 1954 he sang Tristan and Parsifal at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, in 1954-55 he was a guest at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, and he made guest appearances at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow and at the Leningrad Opera.

In 1955 he returned to Berlin, this time to the Staatsoper, where he appeared in the premiere of Der arme Konrad by Jean Kurt Forest in 1959, and stayed at the Staatsoper until 1961. He remained in Berlin, finally becoming a member of the Deutsches Opernhaus again, until his retirement in 1972. One of his last appearances at the opera house was a 1971 performance of H.W. Henze’s Der junge Lord. Treptow died in Berlin in 1981 at the age of 73.

Notable Recordings


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