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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Max Lorenz (10 May 1901 – 11 January 1975)

Max Lorenz - Siegfried
If you are looking for a real life musical hero as legendary as the parts he plays, then you need look no further than Max Lorenz.  A Heldentenor popular at Bayreuth during the 30's and 40's, his story remains one of inspiration, particularly if you are gay or face discrimination from an intolerant regime.

He rose to become the most popular tenor at Bayreuth during the Weimar Republic and then into the Third Riech, Hitlers most favourite tenor and came under the personal protection of Hermann Goring.  His homosexuality was tolerated by the Nazis as an open secret, as was the fact he was married to a Jewish woman, complicit in his lifestyle.

                                                        

Most famously, after a very public court appearance as a result of a dalliance with a young man, Hitler advised Winifried Wagner that he was not suitable for Bayreuth, after which she replied that with no Lorenz, Bayreuth can't be done.

His very marriage was seen as provocation and after a home invasion by the SS on his wife and mother-in-law, his wife Lotte was able to phone the sister of Goring and as a result the SS were advised to leave his residence, wife and mother-in-law alone.  He was also responsible for the repatriation of many of his gay and Jewish colleagues during this time.

Max Lorenz lived a long and fruitful life post-war and passed away in 1975.  He was also a brilliant teacher, James King was one of his pupils, and leaves behind him a surprisingly large recorded legacy.

                                                      

The two recorded samples herein are testament to his artistry.  I've chosen his Tannhauser, it's a virile account of his aria from Tannhauser's time in the Venusburg from Act 1 as an example of his Wagnerian recordings.  To me however, more interesting is the second, it's a live recording of Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos, recorded in the presence of the composer himself, and allegedly Hitler, on the eve of June 11, 1944, to mark Strauss' 80th birthday celebrations.  The quality of this radio broadcast is outstanding and the performance remains a benchmark to this day.

Below is a brilliant documentary on the life of this inspirational man, certainly worth a look for anyone interested in the culture of gay life, Bayreuth and culture in general during the Third Reich.


   


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