The opera tenor who led synagogue services

September 29, 2017 by norman lebrecht


On the eve of Yom Kippur, we present two clips of Joseph Schmidt performing synagogue liturgy.

Schmidt fled Nazi Germany and wound up a refugee in Switzerland, where his health collapsed in an internment camp. He died in November 1942 at the age of 38.


Comments (13)

  1. Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    One of the greatest German tenors. No theatrical career to speak of, as he was only about 5ft tall; but a very fine singer who can be seen in several films, usually standing on a box whilst sundry beauties melt in response to his vocal glory.

    1. esfir ross says:

      My mother remember him on heel to his shoes.

    2. esfir ross says:

      My mother remember him on heels to his shoes.

    3. Michael Hurshell says:

      Austro-Hungarian tenor with Rumanian / Ukrainian roots, actually.

      1. Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

        The German refers to his repertoire; but thanks for your help [sigh]…

        1. Michael Hurshell says:

          He did sing a lot of German repertoire. But also Puccini:

          or Verdi

          or, of course, the (Austrian) operettas.
          These excerpts from services are great! Does anyone know where they were recorded?

          1. Johan says:

            Palestine 1934 and Berlin 1929

          2. Heath says:

            Actually, the first, the shema Yisrael was recorded in Berlin.

  2. Una says:

    How wonderful. As a practising Christian, I always feel an affinity to the Jews at this time as I used to have a job in a London synagogue and sang the High Holy Days. It was just so meaningful.

    1. Belfast Bob says:

      Affinity? Why, they do not believe in the Messiah, George Frideric Handel!

  3. Johannes Bos-Beijer says:

    My family knew him during his time in Holland. Prolific weekly radio appearances and a wide range of concert hall recital repertoire. He did appear on stage on Boheme. The voice was ideal for the radio and microphone but in person was astoundingly penetrating. His tour in the US was also amazing. The regret is his return thereafter to Europe and his demise a few years later. There is a profound sadness in his sound even in uplifting music.

  4. David Osborne says:

    Surely one of the most glorious tenor voices of all time.

  5. Heath says:

    I always weep at the end of that first recording, the shema Yisrael. That high note is always a surprise.

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