Helge Rosvaenge

29 August 1897 Copenhagen – 19 June 1972 Munich

Picture of Helge Rosvaenge in Fidelio

Picture of Helge Rosvaenge

Picture of Helge Rosvaenge with Erna Berger in front of Opera poster
with Erna Berger

Picture of Rosvaenge

Picture of Rosvaenge

Picture of Rosvaenge
6 years old

Helge Rosvaenge singsIl trovatore: Di quella pira, film version set in a restaurant
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsIl trovatore: Lodern zum Himmel

Helge Rosvaenge singsDie große Sünderin: Das Leben des Schrenk
Grammophon, 1935
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsDie große Sünderin: Das Leben des Schrenk
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsUn ballo in maschera: Weißt du nicht, dass wenn Schlangen der Reue...O wie die süßen Worte, with Liane Synek
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsAriadne auf Naxos: Bin ich ein Gott, with Viorica Ursuleac
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsOtello: Bei des Himmels ehernem Dache, with Hans Reinmar
THE definitive version, thanks to both singers
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsTurandot: Keiner schlafe
In RA format

Helge Rosvaenge singsAndrea Chénier: Den Blick hatt' ich einst erhoben

Helge Rosvaenge singsZhizn za tsarja: Brüder, folgt mir

Helge Rosvaenge singsLe postillon de Lonjumeau: Freunde, vernehmet die Geschichte
In RA format

On Rosvaenge, cf. also Opera for the German Reichsrundfunk, by Daniele Godor

Rosvaenge, born Helge Rosenvinge Hansen, graduated in chemistry from the Technical University in Copenhagen. His voice was discovered by chance when he sang for friends in Schwerin; one of them was the Hungarian soprano Ilona Holndonner, who told him to study voice, and instantly gave with him in Schwerin what was to become his debut concert. Holndonner was soon to become his wife. He took voice lessons in Copenhagen and Berlin, and after a few concerts in Denmark, he made his stage debut in 1921 in Neustrelitz as Don José.

He sang in Altenburg (1922–24), Basel (1924–26) and Köln (1926–29) before he became a member of the Berlin Staatsoper in 1929 (until 1945) and the Vienna Staatsoper in 1932 (until 1957). Since he always sang in German-speaking countries, he was often written Roswaenge.

Guest appearances throughout Europe: Milano, London (Covent Garden), Copenhagen, Stockholm, Amsterdam, Brussels, Antwerp, Munich, Dresden, Hamburg, Salzburg Festival (frequently), Cairo (1933 as Radames, a big success), Barcelona, Bucarest, Budapest, Bayreuth (Parsifal, 1934 and 1936). He was famous not only for his top, but not least for his stamina: he sang about 200 performances per year and was the first major singer who travelled by airplane so as get around quicker. When he sang Canio, he usually insisted on singing also the prologue since the role of Canio alone didn't keep him busy enough for a whole evening.

He was a member of the Nazi party since 1933, and good friends with Hermann Göring. He sang concerts for Nazi organizations, and he wanted to help create the model Nazi opera: he chose the subject, he chose the librettist, he chose the composer, he looked after the Vienna Staatsoper world premiere, he even wrote the invitations for the VIP guests by hand, and of course he sang the lead character: the opera in question was Königsballade by Rudolf Wille, premiered in 1939. It was a failure, and got only three performances.

In 1945, the Soviets deported Rosvaenge to a camp near Moscow; after a few months, he could leave the country. He went to Spain, at that point the only Fascist country in Europe, and returned to his old profession as a chemist, quite successfully: from the patents he received in those years, he earned money for the rest of his life.

In 1948, he went back to Central Europe, and to stage: after a short stay in Switzerland, he returned to Vienna, and took up his career at both the Vienna Staatsoper and the Volksoper (which latter was, at the time, also part of the Staatsoper, whose first stage was the Theater an der Wien, the Staatsoper building proper having been destroyed in the war).

A few years later, Rosvaenge also returned to Berlin, but quite surprisingly: to Communist East Berlin! He sang there regularly, and was quite popular – so popular that he rewrote his autobiography Lache, Bajazzo as Mach es besser, mein Sohn; the new version was printed in East Germany. Comparison of those two books is as ugly as studying the Nazi period and its aftermath can get. The first version, for all formal distancing from the Nazis, clearly exudes the resentments of Göring's friend. The second version, on the contrary, is full of vitriolic remarks against the Nazis, and of antifascist ostentation...

Rosvaenge's career was long. He gave guest appearances in Zürich, Basel, Bern, Lucerne, Köln, at the Salzburg, Bregenz, Bad Hersfeld and Tecklenburg festivals, even in New York (concerts at Carnegie Hall, 1963, and Madison Square Garden, 1964), but also at the tiny provincial theater of Sankt Pölten: Carmen, Land des Lächelns and Pagliacci in 1963 and 1964. (It was high time to retire, as ultra-rare recordings from those performances prove.) Still in 1970, he sang a secondary part at the Gärtnerplatztheater in Munich, the city where he lived and taught voice.

Reference 1: Kutsch & Riemens; reference 2; reference 3: Robert Schlesinger: Gott sei mit unserm Führer. Der Opernbetrieb im deutschen Faschismus, Wien 1997, pp. 102 & 118; reference 4: Helge Rosvaenge: Lache, Bajazzo. Ernstes und Heiteres aus meinem Leben, München-Wien 1953; reference 5: Helge Rosvaenge: Mach es besser, mein Sohn. Ein Tenor erzählt aus seinem Leben, Leipzig 1963

  1. Carmen (José), 1921
  2. Faust (Faust), 1921
  3. Les dragons de Villars (Sylvain), 1921
  4. Martha (Lyonel), 1921
  5. Les contes d'Hoffmann (Hoffmann), 1922
  6. La fille du régiment (Tonio), 1922
  7. La finta giardiniera (Belfiore), 1922
  8. Der Kuhreigen (Primus Thaller), 1922
  9. Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (Fenton), 1922
  10. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Balthasar Zorn), 1922
  11. Die toten Augen (Hirt), 1922
  12. La traviata (Alfredo), 1922
  13. Il barbiere di Siviglia (Almaviva), 1923
  14. Madama Butterfly (Linkerton), 1923
  15. Rigoletto (Duca), 1923
  16. Tristan und Isolde (Junger Seemann), 1923
  17. Die Weiberverschwörung (Astolf, composer Schubert), 1923
  18. Abu Hassan (Abu Hassan), 1924
  19. La dame blanche (George Brown), 1924
  20. Der Fremde (Hein, composer Kaun), 1924
  21. La Juive (Léopold), 1924
  22. Les pélerins de la Mecque (Ali), 1924
  23. Das Rheingold (Froh), 1924
  24. Der Rosenkavalier (Sänger), 1924
  25. Tiefland (Nando), 1924
  26. Der Wildschütz (Kronthal), 1924
  27. Die Zauberflöte (Tamino), 1924
  28. Don Gil (Don Martin, composer Futterer), 1925
  29. L'elisir d'amore (Nemorino), 1925
  30. Die Entführung aus dem Serail (Belmonte), 1925
  31. Der Freischütz (Max), 1925
  32. Její pastorkyňa (Števa), 1925
  33. Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (Vogelsang), 1925
  34. Mignon (Wilhelm Meister), 1925
  35. Der Obersteiger (Roderick), 1925
  36. Tannhäuser (Walther), 1925
  37. Adrienne (Baron von Kayserling), 1926
  38. Fra Diavolo (Fra Diavolo), 1926
  39. Oberon (Oberon), 1926
  40. Turandot (Pang), 1926
  41. Così fan tutte (Ferrando), 1927
  42. Don Gil (Don Manuel, composer Braunfels), 1927
  43. Don Giovanni (Don Ottavio), 1927
  44. Judith (Soldat), 1927
  45. Pélléas et Mélisande (Pélléas), 1927
  46. Le postillon de Lonjumeau (Chapelou), 1927
  47. Tosca (Cavaradossi), 1927
  48. Cardillac (Cavalier), 1928
  49. La belle Hélène (Pâris), 1928
  50. Fra Diavolo (Lorenzo), 1928
  51. Palestrina (Abisu), 1928
  52. Zar und Zimmermann (Chateauneuf), 1928
  53. Un ballo in maschera (Riccardo), 1929
  54. Der Barbier von Bagdad (Nureddin), 1929
  55. Cavalleria rusticana (Turiddu), 1929
  56. Louise (Julien), 1929
  57. Knjaz Igor (Vladimir), 1930
  58. Die Zierpuppen (Grange, composer Lattuada), 1930
  59. Les Troyens (Aeneas), 1931
  60. Die ägyptische Helena (Da-Ud), 1931
  61. Alceste (Admeto), 1931
  62. La forza del destino (Don Alvaro), 1931
  63. Manon Lescaut (des Grieux), 1931
  64. Eine Nacht in Venedig (Herzog), 1931
  65. Oberon (Hüon), 1931
  66. Fedora (Loris), 1932
  67. Die Frau ohne Schatten (Jüngling), 1932
  68. Les huguenots (Raoul), 1932
  69. Idomeneo (Idomeneo), 1932
  70. Spuk im Schloss (Georg, composer Kricka), 1932
  71. I vespri siciliani (Arrigo), 1932
  72. Arabella (Mattheo), 1933
  73. Aida (Radames), 1933
  74. Bastien und Bastienne (Bastien), 1934
  75. Der Bettelstudent (Simon), 1934
  76. Guillaume Tell (Arnold), 1934
  77. Parsifal (Parsifal), 1934
  78. Ariadne auf Naxos (Bacchus), 1935
  79. Die grosse Sünderin (Schrenk, CR), 1935
  80. Der Schauspieldirektor (Kapellmeister), 1935
  81. Fidelio (Florestan), 1937
  82. Pagliacci (Canio), 1937
  83. Die Königsballade (Harald, composer Wille, CR), 1939
  84. Don Carlo (Don Carlo), 1940
  85. Zhizn za tsarja (Sobinin), 1940
  86. Charodejka (Jurij), 1941
  87. Andrea Chénier (Andrea Chénier), 1942
  88. Turandot (Calaf), 1944
  89. Tausendundeine Nacht (Suleiman), 1949
  90. Das Land des Lächelns (Sou Chong), 1951
  91. La fanciulla del West (Dick Johnson), 1953
  92. Iwan Tarassenko (Fedja, composer Salmhofer), 1953
  93. Die Fledermaus (Alfred), 1954
  94. Rendez-vous um Mitternacht (Felix, composer Kattnigg, CR), 1956
  95. Der Zigeunerbaron (Barinkay), 1960
  96. Les brigands (Falsacappa), 1961
  97. Das Dreimäderlhaus (Schubert), 1965
  98. Orphée aux enfer (Orphée), 1966
  99. Der Zigeunerbaron (Carnero), 1968
  100. Yolimba (Italian tenor, composer Killmayer), 1970
Otello (Otello), 1943
Die Landstreicher (Adolar, composer Ziehrer), 1967
Ein Walzertraum (Minister), 1969

Rosvaenge as a baritone

Reference: Richard T. Soper: Nordic Voices, Shires Press, 2010.
I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the pictures (with Erna Berger, Fidelio, bottom 2) and recording (Otello).
I wish to thank Thomas Silverbörg for the picture (private) and recording (Chénier).

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