From a very poor family, he could not study singing, which he would have loved to; he first became a coppersmith and sang in an amateur choir, also as a soloist. A Hamburg innkeeper, who liked his voice, eventually paid him singing lessons, and in 1912, he debuted in Hamburg as Florestan, and was an immediate success. He would always stay at the Hamburger Stadttheater, but was a frequent guest at the Berlin Staatsoper and also sang in Zoppot, Vienna, Budapest, and the Netherlands. He retired in 1936. His was a strange career; he was particularly gifted for Wagner's music, yet he didn't want to sing it. The Met offered him a Wagnerian contract in the early 1920s, and he refused; he preferred to sing Italian and French music, and while people like myself might consider this good taste, it was certainly a grave mistake. He apparently made only one Wagnerian recording (an excerpt from Fliegender Holländer), and it's his best by far, or more precisely, his only really good recording. Even though he obviously loved the Italian-French repertory, his style was definitely not suited to it.