Ludovic Spiess

Operatic tenor

Ludovic Spiess, opera singer and administrator: born Cluj, Romania 13 May 1938; died near Alexandria, Romania 28 January 2006.

The Romanian tenor Ludovic Spiess specialised in dramatic Italian roles by Verdi and Puccini. He was also very effective in Russian and Czech opera, which seemed to suit his voice particularly well. A fine concert singer, together with Janet Baker he sang Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde at the Royal Festival Hall in London in 1975. Unfortunately, damage to his vocal cords meant that Spiess had to retire from singing at a comparatively early age.

Spiess was born in 1938 in Cluj, in Transylvania. He left school early and went to work in a factory at Brasov, where he sang in the works choir. He had some singing lessons, then studied at the Music Academy in Bucharest. He made his stage début at Galati as the Duke in Rigoletto in 1962 and then sang for a couple of years at the Bucharest Operetta Theatre. In 1964 he graduated to the National Theatre in Bucharest and after further study in Milan with Antonio Narducci, won a singing competition at Toulouse, which gave him an entry to the international opera circuit.

Spiess made his début at the Salzburg Festival in 1967 as Grigori/ Dmitri in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The following year, he sang Radames in Aida at Zurich, where he was a frequent visitor. He also established a connection with the Vienna State Opera, where he made a notable début with the title role of Smetana's Dalibor. In 1968 he made his American début, as Calaf in Puccini's Turandot at San Francisco.

The tenor concentrated on Verdi roles during the first half of the 1970s. He was not a subtle artist and had little skill as an actor, but he was a generous singer who, when in good voice, could transmit the pleasure he obviously took in singing to the audience.

In the second half of the 1970s, damage to his vocal cords brought Spiess's operatic career virtually to an end. After the Communist regime in Romania was overthrown, he became Minister of Culture from 1992 to 1993, and from 2001 to 2005 he was chief administrator of the National Opera in Bucharest.

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