Günther Treptow

22 October 1907 Berlin – 28 March 1981 Berlin

Picture of Günther Treptow as Otello

Günther Treptow sings Die Walküre: Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond
In RA format

Günther Treptow sings Parsifal: Amfortas! Die Wunde!
In RA format

Treptow studied voice in Berlin as a baritone, then with former bass Giovanni Scarneo in Milano, who made a tenor of him. Back to Berlin, Treptow started to look for a contract and to audition. He had become a member of the Nazi party and their paramilitary wing "Sturmabteilung" as early as 1926 (!); now, in January 1935, he discovered that his mother was Jewish according to the racist criteria of his party. He cancelled his membership, and – now considered "half Jewish" – was banned from any musical profession: his career seemed to end before it had even begun, although his Sturmabteilung unit testified that he had always been a devoted and useful member. Treptow turned to Rudolf Heß for help, who intervened with Joseph Goebbels. A year after his "problem" had emerged, Treptow was accepted into the troupe of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, with a special permit from Goebbels himself. Treptow made his debut as the Italian Singer on May 20th, 1936.

But he could not establish himself against the competition of singers like Pistor, Haller or Fidesser, and so he went to the Vienna Volksoper in 1938, where he sang Pedro, Florestan, Max or Stolzing. In summer 1939, he was Tannhäuser at the festival in Munich and in Zoppot; that was his breakthrough. Clemens Krauss hired him for the Munich opera (1940–44). In the first post-war opera performance in Berlin, he sang Florestan – funny that in such a symbolic celebration of freedom from the Nazi reign, the lead tenor was someone who had joined the Sturmabteilung in 1926! He was, together with conductor Leopold Ludwig and baritone Karl Schmitt-Walter, instrumental in rebuilding musical life in Berlin – particularly in saving the skin of many ex-Nazis of the Deutsche Oper troupe.

From 1947 to 1955, he was back to Vienna (at the Staatsoper, this time). Now he began to build an international career: Zürich, Brussels, Paris, London, Bologna, Venice, Milano (the Furtwängler Ring at La Scala in 1950), Florence, Naples, Torino, Genova, Barcelona, Moscow, Buenos Aires. 1951 saw Treptow's Met debut as Siegmund. Of his initial performance on February 1st, Olin Downes of the New York Times wrote: "He has a voice of warm and dramatic character, though his vocalization does not consistently release and focus the tone to the best advantage. (...) Nor would we claim that Mr. Treptow is an original and distinguished actor." Treptow had one of the shortest careers for a leading tenor in the history of the Met: six performances in three roles (Florestan, Siegmund and Tristan). Forty-two days after his debut, he was on his way back to Berlin.

The same year, at the reopening of the Bayreuth Festival, Treptow was Siegmund, and became one of the leading tenors of "New Bayreuth". 1955–61, he was a member of the Staatsoper Berlin, which was now in the German Democratic Republic. When the Berlin Wall was built, Treptow returned to the Deutsche Oper, where he stayed until retiring in 1973.

His repertory comprised, other than the roles already mentioned, Siegfried, Rienzi, Parsifal, Don José, Canio or Otello. Many studio and live recordings preserve his voice.

References: "Dead Tenors' Society" YouTube channel (much recommended!)
Preiser CD liner notes
Kutsch & Riemens
Misha Aster: Staatsoper. Die bewegte Geschichte der Lindenoper im 20. Jahrhundert, München 2017
Jörg Osterloh: "Ausschaltung der Juden und des jüdischen Geistes". Nationalsozialistische Kulturpolitik 1920–1945, Frankfurt am Main 2020

I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the picture.
I would like to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the recording (Parsifal).

Go Home