04 July 2024

P.R. Jenkins

Karajan artists: Peter Hofmann – Parsifal and rock music

What we turn to is certainly one of the most unusual careers among Karajan’s artistic partners. Karajan cast Peter Hofmann for the title-role in his “Parsifal” recording and as Erik in “The Flying Dutchman”. “Parsifal” was also produced for the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1980 – unusually before it was recorded the same year (Karajan’s only studio recording of Wagner’s last opera). In the following year, the production was repeated in Salzburg and was performed twice in a concert version in Paris (I presume it was Act 3 only). In 1984, Hofmann appeared once as Lohengrin in Karajan’s Salzburg Easter Festival production.

Peter Hofmann sang in a rock band when he was a teenager, was an outstanding sportsman (decathlon) and a military officer in the German army. After being “honorably discharged”, Hofmann started with professional singing lessons at the Karlsruhe Conservatory when he was already 25 years old. Within four years, he managed to develop from a newcomer in Lübeck to a sensational Siegmund at the 1976 “Centenary Ring” in Bayreuth. In the following years, Hofmann, who not only boasted a sturdy “Heldentenor” voice but was also tall and handsome, became one of the few Wagner singers performing the great tenor parts like Tristan, Stolzing and Lohengrin all over the world. Like many other Wagner tenors, Hofmann’s voice frayed after ten years of constant stress in the major international opera houses. Between the two Karajan recordings Hofmann returned to his roots as a rock singer and published an album named “Classic Rock”, which was sold over 1,000,000 times in Germany and Austria. As of 1990, he appeared more than 300 times in the musical “The Phantom of the Opera”. In 1997, he played Old Firehand in “Winnetou and Old Firehand”, a wild west saga at the “Karl May Festival” in Bad Segeberg. Hofmann came down with Parkinson’s disease and ended his career in 2000. He died ten years later, aged 66.

We’ve prepared playlists with Karajan and Peter Hofmann. Listen to them here.

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