Written and Presented by Martin Bourke.
Part of The Kilkee Civic Trust Summer Talks Season recorded at Culturlann Sweeney in Kilkee.
Richard Tauber 1891 – 1948
“One of the best loved singers, Tauber was a talented composer and conductor but singing ‘was his hearts delight”
Few singers straddled the world of grand opera and light operetta like the Austrian Tenor, Richard Tauber. Long before Lesley Garett or Pavarotti, Domingo & Carreras collectively as ‘The Three Tenors’ made the “crossover” to popular songs and ballads, Richard Tauber had done it all in far more difficult times. He was frequently criticised and reprimanded in public for denigrating his art by singing such ‘dross’ as “You are my Heart’s Delight” and “Vienna City of my Dreams”. But he became so successful in the popular song that the composer Franz Lehar (he of the ‘Merry Widow’ fame) wrote his operettas with Richard Tauber specifically in mind. That partnership brought international fame to them both.
Richard Tauber was born in the Austrian city of Linz on the river Danube in May 1891. Both his parents were Viennese and though not married to each other, they worked in the theatre business, she a singer and his father an actor and theatre manager of some repute. His upbringing was somewhat unconventional in that for the first 9 years of his life Richard’s existence was unknown to his father. Reared initially by his mother, then foster parents and finally by his father from the age of 9, Richard grew up with a happy disposition, which lasted throughout his life. His musical talent began to manifest itself and through his father he received a thorough education in all aspects of musicianship. Despite initial opposition from his father, Richard got his wish and began studying voice with a prominent teacher in Germany and emerged 3 years later as a superb singer of opera particularly Mozart and lieder art songs. Indeed, it is incomplete to describe him as a tenor because he also sang baritone, conducted symphony orchestras, played the piano and was a successful composer and filmmaker. His own musical “Old Chelsea” ran in London’s West-end for over 600 performances in 1942/43.
Because of his Jewish ancestry, Richard had to flee Germany after being beaten up by a group of Nazi vigilantes and he became stateless with the annexation of Austria in 1939.
His relationship with women was complex but charming “give me a piano and a beautiful girl and I’m in heaven.” He led a colourful life and in the end while on his deathbed he was comforted by both his wife and his mistress together.
Richard Tauber was by nature a jolly, happy and exuberant man not given to temperamental behaviour, as is often the case in his profession. He was extremely generous with his talents, his wealth, his knowledge and his time.
As a vocal artist, he was technically very good but this was never allowed to interfere with the feeling, the mood, the passion being expressed in a melody. His voice was so distinctive that he is instantly recognisable in any of his 730 professional recordings.
In 1948, and a few short weeks after performing the lead tenor role in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Richard Tauber died of lung cancer at the age of 57. He had in fact sung the performance on one lung, giving of himself to the very end.
This is the 4th Profile Martin Bourke has presented in Kilkee for KCT; the previous ones were on Stephen Foster, Mario Lanza and John McCormack. The audio-visual presentation will include a generous selection of music and photographic slides recounting the story of a very interesting life. These Profiles, undertaken on a pro-bono basis, in aid of Kilkee Civic Trust, are devised, researched, scripted and presented by Martin Bourke. Martin has had a lifelong interest in the career and vocal art of classical and light classical singers collecting recordings and biographies of these artists.