Theo Adam (born 1 August 1926) is a distinguished German classical bass-baritone who had an active international career in operas, concerts, and recitals from the 1940s through the 1990s. He particularly excelled in portraying roles from the operas of Richard Wagner. On the concert stage, he was a much admired Bach singer and also drew acclaim for his interpretation of the title character of Felix Mendelssohn's Elijah.
Born in Dresden, Adam sang with the Dresdner Kreuzchor as a boy. He studied singing with Rudolf Dietrich between 1946 and 1949. He made his professional opera debut in his native city as the Hermit in Der Freischütz at the Semperoper in 1949. In 1952, he joined the roster of singers at the Berlin State Opera. That same year he made his first appearance at the Bayreuth Festival in a small role. He returned annually to Bayreuth for many years, taking on the role of Heinrich der Vogler in Lohengrin in 1954, Titurel (and one of the Gralsritter) in Parsifal in the same year, Fasolt in Das Rheingold in 1958, and Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1963. He eventually added Amfortas in Parsifal, Hans Sachs and Veit Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the title role in The Flying Dutchman to his Bayreuth performance credits.
Adam made his début at the Royal Opera, London as Wotan in 1967. He made his first appearance at the Salzburg Festival as Ochs in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier in 1969, returning there three years later to sing the title role in Alban Berg's Wozzeck. At the Theater an der Wien he portrayed Pizarro in Ludwig van Beethoven's Fidelio in a 1970 production celebrating the composer's 200th birthday. He also portrayed the title role in a new production of Don Giovanni at the Vienna State Opera in 1972.
At the Metropolitan Opera, the bass-baritone debuted as Hans Sachs on 7 February 1969 with Pilar Lorengar as Eva, John Alexander as Walther von Stolzing, and Joseph Rosenstock conducting. That same year he sang in performances of Der Ring des Nibelungen (as Wotan), opposite Birgit Nilsson, Régine Crespin, Lili Chookasian, and Jon Vickers, conducted and directed by Herbert von Karajan. He returned to the Met in 1972 to sing Hans Sachs and Wotan again with a similar cast that now also included Gwyneth Jones. After a sixteen-year absence, Adam returned to the Met for the last time in March 1988 to portray Wotan in Die Walküre with Peter Hofmann as Siegmund, Sabine Hass as Sieglinde, and conductor James Levine.
Adam appeared in a number of world premieres during his career. He notably created the title roles in Paul Dessau's Einstein (1974, Berlin) and Friedrich Cerha's Baal (1981, Salzburg) and the role of Prospero in Luciano Berio's Un re in ascolto (1984, Salzburg). In 1979, the artist was named a Kammersänger.
Adam's discography includes Così fan tutte (1969), Fidelio (1969 and 1979), Der fliegende Holländer (with Anja Silja, conducted by Otto Klemperer, 1968), Der Freischütz (1973 and 1985), Hänsel und Gretel (1970), Leonore (with Edda Moser and Richard Cassilly, 1976), Die Meistersinger (conducted by von Karajan, 1970), Parsifal (as Amfortas, opposite René Kollo, 1975), Der Ring des Nibelungen (conducted by Karl Böhm, 1966–67; and by Marek Janowski, 1980–1983), Tannhäuser (1968–69), Wozzeck (1970 and 1973), and Die Zauberflöte (as Sarastro, 1968; elsewhere as the Sprecher). Also notable is the recording of the premiere of Berio's Un re in ascolto (with Karan Armstrong, led by Lorin Maazel, 1984). His non-operatic recordings include the Angel Raphel in Haydn's Die Schöpfung, Bach's Christmas Oratorio, and the Mozart/Süssmayr Requiem. He performed Bach cantatas as a soloist with the Münchener Bach-Chor conducted by Karl Richter.
Adam has written two books about his life, career, and perspective on opera, Seht, hier ist Tinte, Feder, Papier …: Aus der Werkstatt eines Sängers (Berlin, 1980) and Die hundertste Rolle, oder, Ich mache einen neuen Adam (Munich, 1987).
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