Fritz Trostorff

Fritz Trostorff was born on October 29th, 1874 in Ratingen. He studied singing with the baritone Rudolf von Milde. He started his career in the chorus of the Zürich opera in 1893 as a bass. In 1894, he went to Weimar and restudied with the baritone Rudolf Gmür. He developed into a tenor and took acting lessons from the actor Dagobert Neuffer, who became in 1898 the director of the opera in Metz and had his protégé make his debut there as Lorenzo. During the celebrations of the 150th aniversary of the house, he sang Tristan (February 6th, 1902 – first performance in Metz). He also made guest appearances in Trier and Potsdam. In 1902, when singing Lohengrin in Hannover, he was praised for his beautiful voice, slim appearance and flexibility while his quality of having a voice big enough for the larger opera houses was called into question. He stayed in Metz for another two years experiencing highs and lows. On May 4th, 1903 the Bühnenalmanach announced his death, suicide was even insinuated. It was announced again in 1904 and revoked in 1905. This was probably not an error. In the prudish city of Metz, it was noticed in 1903 that he was living together with Lisa Weise and Hermann Sommer, and this led to bad gossip. Neuffer was relieved when the trio left Metz in 1904. Lisa Weise went to Berlin and Sommer went to Aachen. Trostorff went to Königsberg. Immediately, he took part in a Wagner cycle singing Rienzi, Erik, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan, Stolzing, Loge, Siegmund, Siegfried. In 1906, he moved to Breslau as first heldentenor. Walther Günther-Braun made guest appearances in Breslau and was used there for the lighter Wagner parts. In 1913, the director Löwe resigned, and the career of Trostorff seemed to be nearing his end with the change of management. During the fall of 1913, he still had success as Rienzi. But he was cancelling very often. Since 1914, the new director Runge was looking for a replacement. During spring 1914, Trostorff was the fourth and most successful Parsifal of the house, according to his supporters, after Hochbein, Gläser and Schmieter. He retired in 1915 after ten years in Breslau. It may be that Trostorff continued singing as guest. It is almost impossible to find out when Trostorff sang for the last time. He was killed during an air raid over Breslau in 1945, but it is not known for sure.
Reference: Einhard Luther, So viel der Helden. Biographie eines Stimmfaches, Teil 3: Wagnertenöre der Kaiserzeit (1871–1918), Berlin 2006

While Trostorff's singing is thoroughly unremarkable, his vita is not. His was deeply rooted in a social democratic milieu, which must have made him feel like an alien in then German operatic life (where everybody was eager to appear apolitical, and where almost everybody was, the apolitical self-presentation notwithstanding, fiercely right-wing). His wife Margot was the daughter of a social democratic politician, Anna Friedlaender, who was a city councillor in Breslau (today Wrocław), and also at Fritz Trostorff's home, the social democratic speaker of the German parliament, Paul Loebe, was a frequent guest. Margot Trostorff being Jewish, Fritz was (like all non-Jewish spouses of Jews) heavily pressed after the Nazi rise to power to divorce her, which he refused. This led to his forced retirement as a singer; he made a living for his family as a voice teacher until he was forbidden to exercise that profession, as well. Their second son, Klaus, was a member of the anti-Nazi resistance from 1934 on, when he was just 14; at that early age, he very actively helped (with the approval of his mother) a well-known Jewish journalist, Paul Riesenfeld, to escape from Germany to Czechoslovakia. He continued his political work until 1943, when his cover was blown and he was imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp (he survived). Jewish spouses of non-Jewish Germans were most of the Nazi era spared from extinction, so Margot Trostorff could live on with her family in Breslau; in 1944, though, she was conscripted for digging antitank ditches for the retreating German army, which was of course life-threatening, and deliberately so. Just before the whole Jewish forced laborer unit was to be sent to the concentration camp Groß-Rosen, Margot Trostorff escaped, and returned home to Breslau, where she hided with her husband during the last weeks of WWII. Just a few days before the war was over, Fritz Trostorff died in allied bombing; the rest of his family survived.

Reference: Peter Hochmuth/Gerhard Hoffmann (ed.): Buchenwald, ich kann dich nicht vergessen. Lebensbilder, Berlin 2007, p. 141–149 (the story of the Trostorff family as told by Klaus Trostorff)
Many years ago, I told Einhard Luther that his account of the second half of Trostorff's life was wrong. Now Luther was just as right-wing as Fritz Trostorff's operatic contemporaries; in an astoundingly aggressive email reply to me, he had the courage to dismiss Klaus Trostorff's report as "typical GDR propaganda", just because Klaus Trostorff had later been a local communist politician (mayor of Erfurt) in the GDR, and then long-term director of the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial.
Fritz Trostorff sings Tannhäuser: Inbrunst im Herzen
In RA Format
Odeon, Berlin 1907
xB2621 Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Preislied             64641, 25059
xB2623 Freischütz (Weber): Durch die Wälder                       64307, 25058

Gramophone, Berlin 1908
12602u Rienzi (Wagner): Allmächt'ger Vater 		          4-42069
12603u Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Morgenlich leuchtend  4-42070
12604u Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): Jetzt spielen                     4-42071
12605u Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Wagner): Am stillen Herd       4-42072
0798v  Tannhäuser (Wagner): Inbrunst im Herzen                    042161
0799v  Lohengrin (Wagner): In fernem Land                         042162
Discography source: (alas defunct)
Picture source

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