This guy sang longer than Domingo

This guy sang longer than Domingo


norman lebrecht

September 07, 2019

The Danish commentator Henrik Engelbrecht reminds us of the glorious career of his compatriot Peter Schram, who made his debut at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen in 1841 and did not retire until 1889, after which he continued to take the stage as an actor until his death.

He made the earliest known recording of Mozart.



  • Caravaggio says:

    God forbid the news should reach PD’s ears or ego. A delicious irony that the soundtrack happens to be some of Leporello’s music. Question is – Was the 19th century tenor’s sexual harrassment of women longer, too? Because different times, different expectations, different standards of consent.

  • Petros LInardos says:

    Among singers, the longevity record may go to Hugues Cuénod, both for the time span between his first and last public performance, 1928-1992, and his lifespan, 1902-2010. That’s just numbers. I’d be astonished if anyone preferred Cuénod over just about any other major post-war tenor.

  • David Hilton says:

    It will still be a long time before anyone equals Hugues Cuenod’s 63 years as a professional opera singer. It helps to live to be 109, of course, as Cuenod did.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Actually Hans Hotter may have been on stage about 70 years, even though he lived 15 years less than Cuénod. He continued to sing appropiate roles like Schigolch in Lulu well into his 80s. (Hearing his distinctive voice live, as Schigolch when he was 75, was a hair raising experience I’ll never forget; seldom have I felt that kind of awe in front of a real living legend).

      We can certainly look with great respect to Hotter for his singing longevity, but there are other, more important superlatives I associate with him. I am probably not alone in thinking that no shortlist of the greatest classical singers of all times can be complete without him.

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Fascinating. You have to have an imaginative ear to listen to recordings of this vintage, although as a rule very old vocal recordings are more enjoyable than insrumental recordings of the same vintage. Quite apart from the sound (and the wear and tear on voice (in this case) and recording medium) it took a while before the commercial recording industry got the recordings mediums, discs or cylinders, to turn at exact and consistent speeds. One sometimes reads opinions that nobody sang or played in tune back then, but the medium had quite a bit to do with that sensation.

    With the very oldest recordings it is always fun to play certain “what if” games. Schram was born in 1819. If Wolfgang had lived as long as his father did, Schram’s and Wolfgang’s lives would have overlapped by about 5 years. His live overlapped with Michael Kelly’s (one of Mozart’s favorite singers) by 6 years. His vocal training was under artists whose own careers came just a few years after Mozart’s death, but who worked with Beethoven and Paer and others of the era. It is fair to speculate that a goodly amount of the manner and style of Mozart’s time was still “in the air” when Schram was a student and beginning artist. And he lived and sang just long enough to let us hear it. Remarkable, isn’t it?

  • observer says:

    a thorough analysis of that cylinder your readers might enjoy:

  • Edgar Self says:

    Schram was a bass. Tthey tend to sing and live longer.

    Hugues Cuenod debuted at the Met in 1987 at age 84 as Emperor Altoum in Tuerandot, singing 14 performances in two easons. He often said he had no voice and was engaged because of the strangeness of his repertoire — Cavalli, Monteverdi, Couperin le Grand, Purcell, Dowland, &tc. Particularly noted for singing Bach cantatas and passions, especially the St. Matthew Evangelist on records with Hermann Scherchen, Heinz Rehfuss, and Hilde Roessl-Maijdan.

    I saw him at Berkeley UC in a joint recital with Charles Bressler and Albert Fuller. They had flown in from Minneapolis and all had colds, as Cuenod explained in charming English.

    Stravinsky wrote the roll of Sellem in “Rake’s Progress” for Cuenod, who sang it in La Scala’s premiere with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in 1951. Stravinsky conducted. They all got lost, including Stravinsky. There’s a recording.

    Stravinsky had discovered Cuenod’s records of Couperin’s “Lecons de Tenebris”, which he and Schoenberg liked and I think shared with Klemperer.

    Albert Fuller translated the English edition of a book, “Hugues Cuenod — An Agile Voice” based on Cuenod’s conversations with Francois Hudry, Pendragon 1998. Delightful.

  • Geronte di Ravoir says:

    Well. Who cares about it? Long life to Mr. Domingo

  • Vivian Ramalingam says:

    That’s not Leporello’s baritone! It’s Osmin’s bass aria “O wie will ich triumphieren” from “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail”

  • Vivian Ramalingam says:

    please delete erroneous previous comment