Louis Laber

24 April 1889 Chornyj Ostriv (Ukraine) – 26 December 1929 Helsinki
Louis Laber probably attended a musical academy in the Ukraine. He traveled in 1911 to Italy to learn singing and remained in Italy during the First World War. In 1919, he moved to Vienna. During that time, he was hired as first tenor buffo by the Neues Deutsches Theater (NDT) in Prague. On April 4th 1920, he directed for the first time: La bohème. Next year, he directed the Trittico for the premiere on February 7th, 1920. After a short while, he became one of the most important stage directors of the Zemlinsky era at the NDT (1911–1926). In 1925, he started also to design costumes and sets for the NDT, and soon he was active in three different branches of the business. Louis Laber took part in the performance of Schönberg's Gurrelieder on June 9th, 1921 as Narr (Fool).
Review of the Meistersinger performance on 7 September 1919, published 10 September 1919 in Bohemia by Felix Adler
On the positive side the David of Louis Laber, who moved elegantly and fulfilled the vocal part expertly. He is a fine actor and his pronunciation was without any accent.
Later he also appeared as an actor, for example as Teacher Nakhman in the play The Jews by Chirikov.
Felix Adler in Bohemia on 25 January 1921:
Louis Laber gave a touching and spellbinding interpretation of the role.
His roles at the NDT included :
Giulio (Don Juans letztes Abenteuer by Paul Graener), Mime (Ring), David (Meistersinger), Pedrillo (Entführung), Albi (Schatzgräber), Dritter Jude (Salome), Splendiano (Djamileh), Arturo (Lucia di Lammermoor), Steuermann (Der fliegende Holländer), Beppo (Pagliacci), Ruiz (Trovatore), Jaquino (Fidelio), Tinca (Tabarro).

Louis Laber left the NDT with Zemlinsky after the season 1926/27. After that, he went to the Stadttheater at Aussig as stage director. He did not take his position for the season 1927/28 as agreed but first went to the Soviet Union and visited his family for the first time since he had left the Ukraine. During the fall of 1927, he was in Ekaterinoslav where he taught at the Music Academy according a Finnish press report.

He took up his position in Aussig on October 1st, 1928. He stayed there for a season until May 31st, 1929. During that time, he directed: Lohengrin, Zar und Zimmermann, Die Königskinder, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Der fliegende Holländer, Così fan tutte, La traviata, Faust, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the world première of Madeleine Guinard by Karl Prohaska.

The theatrical agent Otto Martens secured him a contract with the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki. After a while, it turned out that Louis Laber was not a citizen of Czechoslovakia or Austria, as it was believed, but that he was a Soviet citizen. In view of the strong anti-Soviet feelings in Finland at that time, all kind of stories began to circulate about him. He was even suspected of being a Soviet spy. In spite of his efforts, Louis Laber could not get a work permit. He was scheduled to be deported to the Soviet Union, which could have meant death for him at that time. Louis Laber became desperate, took an overdose of morphine and died in his apartment in Helsinki. During the three months he was in Helsinki, Louis Laber produced Knjaz Igor, Trovatore, Rigoletto, Mignon, Turandot, and Evgenij Onegin. Those achievements were then praised in the Finnish press, after his death.

Reference: Pamela Tancsik, Die Prager Oper heißt Zemlinsky. Theatergeschichte des Neuen Deutschen Theaters Prag in der Ära Zemlinsky, 1911–1927, Böhlau Verlag 2000

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