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The World's Greatest Tenors - Joseph Schmidt
The World's Greatest Tenors - Joseph Schmidt
What is a Cantor?
THE WORLD’S GREATEST TENORS – JOSEPH SCHMIDT
Josef Schmidt was born in 1904 in Davideny, Romania (now part of the Ukraine).
Because of the First World War, his family moved to Czernowitz, which had a high Jewish population. There he was appointed Cantor and gave his first public performance at age 20.
When he was 24, his uncle arranged for him to appear in Berlin. He soon moved there where he took piano and singing lessons from Professor Hermann Weissenborn at the Königliche Musikshule before returning to Romania to complete his military service.
In 1929 he returned to Berlin where he was hired for a radio broadcast as Vasco da Gama in Meyerbeer’s L’Africaine.
Because he was only 4 ft. 9 in. tall, he was unable to perform in operas but he was extremely well suited for radio and for making phonograph records.
The following is a 1929 recording of E Lucevan Le Stelle from Tosca sung in German.
The World's Greatest Tenors
He also recorded Dein Ist Mein Ganzes Herz (Yours is my heart alone) in German which had specifically been written for the great Austrian tenor, Richard Tauber.
Josef Schmidt enjoyed his greatest success during the rise of Nazis Germany even though he has prohibited from working in Germany and Austria. In 1937 he toured the United States and performed at Carnegie Hall. The following is a 1937 recording of the famous aria from La Boheme.
He visited his mother in Czernowitz for the last time in 1939. When the war broke out later that year, he was caught in France and when France was defeated, he fled to Switzerland. In spite of an American visa and being well known, he was interned as an illegal immigrant at the Gierenbad camp near Zurich.
He died of a fatal heart attack on November 16, 1942, brought on by harsh camp life and lack of medical care. He was only 38 years old. He was buried in the Friezenberg Cemetery near Zurich and it is reported that all 350 inmates of the camp attended his funeral. We will close with two opera standards: Una Furtiva Lagrima and Di Quella Pira.
The Worlds Greatest Tenors
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