Born July 5th (17th), 1877 in Riga into an orthodox Jewish family, Riga studied voice first as a
cantor in his hometown; his father was opposed to his wish to become an opera singer. Nonetheless, he went to Vienna, and studied
also operatic singing with the legendary teacher Joseph Gänsbacher.
He made his debut in 1899 in Cologne in Kreutzer's Das Nachtlager von Granada and went on to Stettin, Karlsruhe, and home
to Riga, before settling in Berlin in 1907, where he sang at the Krolloper first, and at the Hofoper from 1911 to 1916. In addition
to his Berlin contracts as well as for the remainder
of his career, he had no permanent contract, but sang internationally as a guest: at the Met (in 1910 and 1912), Paris,
London, Vienna, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Lviv, Prague, Budapest, Boston... As his records clearly prove, he ruined his
voice early by singing way too heavy repertory; he was probably the greatest coloratura tenor ever, but certainly no Canio or
In the 1920s, he limited his appearances almost exclusively to the concert podium. In 1929, he went back to Riga and became
chief cantor at the main synagogue there, and a teacher at the conservatory. In 1938, he emigrated to Palestine, where he
continued to teach voice and to sing as a cantor. He died in Tel Aviv on May 13th, 1953.