Walter Herbert (conductor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Walter Herbert ( Seligmann, February 18, 1898 – September 14, 1975)[1] was an American conductor and impresario of German birth, as well as a world champion at contract bridge.

He was born Walter Seligmann in Frankfurt, and studied composition under Arnold Schönberg in Vienna. He gained experience as a conductor in Germany and Switzerland, as well as chief conductor at the Vienna Volksoper (1931–38). His operatic debut was with Carmen, at the Stadttheater Bern, in 1925. Just before the 1938 Anschluss of Germany and Austria, Herbert visited Japan to introduce modern western music. From there he migrated to the United States, where he became an American citizen in 1944.

Herbert was director of Opera in English (San Francisco, 1940–43), and in 1943 was appointed the first general director of the New Orleans Opera Association, where he held the post until 1954. He proceeded to found the Houston Grand Opera in 1955, where he remained as both general director and conductor until 1972, and was music director of Opera/South (which was founded by Sister M. Elise Sisson, SBS) in Jackson, Mississippi. He founded the San Diego Opera in 1965, and became its general director and conductor from 1969 until his death.

Herbert worked with most of the great singers of his day, and gave many of them their start in the opera world. In April 1948, during Herbert's regime in New Orleans, the young Mario Lanza made one of his very few operatic stage-appearances, as B.F. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, under Herbert's baton, and Armando Agnini's stage direction. It was announced that he had accepted the role of Alfredo Germont, in the New Orleans Opera's La traviata, in May 1948, but Hollywood apparently interfered with those plans.


The winning Austrian team at the 1937 World Championships: from left, Karl Schneider, Hans Jellinek, Edouard Frischauer, Paul Stern (Capt.), Josephine Culbertson (US), Walter Herbert, Helen Sobel (US), and Karl von Blöhdorn

At the bridge table in the 1930s, Herbert was one member of the Austria national team led by Paul Stern. The team won four of the first six European teams championships, with Herbert playing in 1933 and 1937.[2][3] The 1937 field included two teams from the United States and doubled as the first world championship tournament.[4]

The Herbert Negative is a bridge convention attributed to Walter Herbert, based on the idea that a negative response in a variety of situations can be made by making the cheapest possible suit response, e.g. as a response to a forcing two-bid.[5]

Commercial Discography[edit]

  • Verdi: Un ballo in maschera (S.Morris, Schuh, Larrimore, Björling, Rothmüller, Treigle; 1950) [live] VAI
  • Verdi: Rigoletto (Güden, Conley, Warren, Wilderman, Treigle; 1952) [live] VAI
  • Verdi: La forza del destino (Milanov, Turner, del Monaco, Warren, Treigle; 1953) [live] VAI
  • Ponchielli: La Gioconda: excerpts (Milanov, Turner, Madeira, Turrini, Bardelli, Moscona; 1953) [live] VAI


  1. ^ "Walter Herbert". Social Security Death Index. Retrieved 2009-07-26. "Walter Herbert 18 Feb 1898 Sep 1975 92101 (San Diego, San Diego, CA) (none specified) 556-16-2967 California." 
  2. ^ European Team Championships To Date list. Europan Bridge League. Confirmed 2011-09-08. Select a champion team name to see its personnel.
  3. ^ Manley, Brent, Editor; Horton, Mark, Co-Editor; Greenberg-Yarbro, Tracey, Co-Editor; Rigal, Barry, Co-Editor (2011). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge - Biographies and Results (compact disk) (7th ed.). Horn Lake, MS: American Contract Bridge League. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-939460-99-1. 
  4. ^ There were two teams from the US in the field of 19 otherwise national teams.
    Alan Truscott (1987-06-21). "BRIDGE: A Viennese Victory". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  5. ^ Manley, Brent, Editor; Horton, Mark, Co-Editor; Greenberg-Yarbro, Tracey, Co-Editor; Rigal, Barry, Co-Editor (2011). The Official Encyclopedia of Bridge (7th ed.). Horn Lake, MS: American Contract Bridge League. p. 290. ISBN 978-0-939460-99-1. 

Further reading[edit]

  • "30th Anniversary Commemorative Book—San Diego Opera," 1995.

External links[edit]