A golden age opera conductor has died, aged 94

A golden age opera conductor has died, aged 94


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2017

We have been informed of the death of Siegfried Köhler, music director at Cologne (1957) Saarbrücken (1964), Wiesbaden (1973) and the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm (1989).

He revived defunct operas by Siegfried Wagner and premiered new ones by Volker David Kirchner, among others. A modest man of conservative tastes, he had a high reputation among connoisseurs.



  • Anders Lindgren says:

    A very fine musician and one of the kindest men I ever met. He started out as a harpist and used to say: ” Die Hälfte seines Lebens stimmt der Harfenist, vergebens. “

  • Alexander Radziewski says:

    He was with us in Hamburg till around 2000. Really a fine conductor from ancient times. Being happy to performed with him.

  • Ruben Greenberg says:

    There is often much question in this forum about the star, jet-set conductors, but there also exist-or have existed-wonderful musicians like Köhler who could always be relied on to do fine work and turn out fine performances.

  • Fabio Luisi says:

    I remember him taking over a production of “Tristan und Isolde” at the Opera House in Graz when I was student there, it must have been in 1984 or 1985.
    I remember that there was a big relief when he took over, since the orchestra had not been happy with the former conductor (I don’t remember who it was). I remember an extremely clear 6/8 in the Vorspiel, a no-nonsense conducting, a beautiful phrasing, a very high attention to the singers and generally a refreshing humble attitude with no ego-driven gestures during the entire performance.
    He also took over a performance I had to cancel at the State Opera in Berlin (that was 1990, I believe), it was Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” – in German. Not very italian style – so it was reported to me afterwards – but extremely serious and reliable.

  • 2nd violinist says:

    Sad to read of his passing. I was very fortunate to be able to observe some of his inspiring rehearsals and performances at Deutsche Oper am Rhein. A wonderful musician and such a lovely kind man, who always had time for those around him.

  • Barbara Collier says:

    I studied singing at the Cologne Academy of Music in 1963/64 where Siegfried Köhler was in charge of the opera studio. He was indeed one of the kindest, supportive conductors I have ever encountered. How happy I am to see that he had a long, productive life.