Hermann Jadlowker (1877-1953) was a Latvian tenor; born in Riga he was a member of the choir at the Grand Choral Synagogue where he received vocal training. He wanted to be a singer, but his father wanted a business career for him. To resolve this dispute he left home at age 16 and settled in Vienna. There he came under the tutelage of Cantor  Mayer Schorr, the father of the great bass-baritone Friedrich Schorr.  He also received voice training at the Vienna Conservatory. He graduated from the conservatory in 1907 and made his operatic debut in a minor part at the Cologne Opera House. He sang at a number of regional houses in both Germany and Austria.

His big break came in 1901 when Kaiser Wilhelm II heard him and recruited him to the Hofoper in Berlin. He made the bulk of his career with this company appearing there from 1901 to 1919.

He gave 94 performances at the Met between 1910 to 1912. Like other great tenors of the Caruso period in New York, such as Leo Slezak, there wasn’t room for him at the company; so he left and returned to Germany.  He was Bacchus in the world premiere of Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos in Stuttgart in 1912 as well as at the Berlin premiere a year later. His best years were those leading up to World War I. After the war his stage appearances dwindled and he concentrated on concerts and  recitals. In 1929 he became the principal cantor at his hometown synagogue – The Great Choral Synagogue. In 1938 because of the rise of Nazism and the spread of anti-semitism he left Riga and emigrated to Palestine. He lived in Tel Aviv and became an Israeli citizen after the founding of the country in 1948.

Jadlowker was a tenor unlike any other I’ve heard. He was a spinto with a dark voice, somewhat similar to that of Jonas Kaufmann, who was a master of fioratura and trills. His repertoire extended from Mozart and Rossini to the big Verdi roles including Otello. The only other tenor who had such a range was the aforementioned Leo Slezak. Slezak’s voice was brighter and richer than Jadlowker’s, but he could not come close to the runs and trills that characterized much of the Latvian’s singing. He had all the high notes needed by a spinto tenor, but they seem “white” to me – perhaps it’s the result of the acoustic recording process. Fortunately for posterity, Jadlowker made more than 200 records many of which are readily available today.

Consider the following excerpts from Mozart’s Idomeneo and Rossini’s Barber. Note the extraordinary facility with vocal techniques that while never common are all but extinct today – and this from a big voiced tenor. Idomeneo Fuor del mar (in German) The Barber of Seville Ecco ridente in cielo. The Rossini aria is unlike anything you’ve ever heard by another tenor. It blows away the competition. A second Mozart aria is Ich baue ganz auf deine Stärk from The Abduction from the Seraglio.

Florestan in Beethoven’s Fidelio is a heavier role. His second act aria Gott, welch Dunkel hier is very difficult because of its high tessitura. Beethoven was never kind to his singers. Jadlowker also sang Wagner. Walther von Stolzing from Die Meistersinger was among the roles he sang at the Met. Parsifal was also in his repertoire. Mein lieber Schwan comes near the end of Lohengrin.

French opera  was a big part of the tenor’s work. Meine Freunde, sind hier ganz im Stillen versteckt is from the German version of the tenor aria from Auber’s opéra comique Fra Diavolo. The opera was very popular in the 19th century, but has almost vanished since. Sung in the original French is Plus blanche que la blanche hermine from Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots. The cadenza that Jadlowker interpolates to the aria’s conclusion is a dazzling combination of runs and trills. The famous aria from the same composer’s final opera L’Africaine is sung in Italian. O Paradiso.  Salut, demeure chaste et pure from Gounod’s Faust is well sung, but the high C is taken falsetto which I find off putting.

Two Donizetti pieces are next. Una furtiva lagrima (with a few gratuitous extra high notes) from L’elisir d’amore and the Tomb Scene(in German) from Lucia Di LammermoorCielo e mar is from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda. I started with Mozart and Rossini, I’ll end with Otello’s death scene Niun mi tema.

Why should we care about this largely forgotten tenor from a century ago? I’ll admit that he’s mostly for devotees of opera and old recordings; but as I said above, Jadlowker had a unique voice. The fioratura and the trills are enough to maintain interest in his art. But that they were belonged to a spinto tenor who could manage both bel canto and Otello is truly remarkable.