Peter Hofmann: Tenor who specialised in Wagner and enjoyed a parallel career as a rock singer

The German tenor Peter Hofmann built an international, 25-year career on three Wagner operas.

Tall, slim and extremely good-looking, with a beautiful – if rather light for Wagner – voice, a fine stage presence and considerable acting ability, he sang those three roles all over Europe and the US. He did of course have some other roles in his repertory, but sang none of them with the frequency that he sang Siegmund in Die Walküre or the protagonists of Lohengrin and Parsifal. He was also a very successful rock singer, continuing to give concerts throughout his operatic career.

Hofmann was born in 1944 in Marienbad, Germany (now Mariánské Láznê in the Czech Republic). As a young man he was a fine athlete, achieving distinction in the decathlon. During military service as a paratrooper his talent for rock singing was discovered; later he studied at the Karlsruhe conservatory with Emmy Seiberlich.

He made his debut in 1972 at Lübeck, singing Tamino in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte. In 1974 he moved to Wuppertal and sang the first of his three iconic roles, Siegmund, which was so successful he had to repeat it the following year in Wiesbaden, Rouen and Toulouse. Back in Wuppertal he took part in a new opera, Giselher Klebe's Ein wahrer Held, premiered at Cassel earlier in 1975; this was an adaptation of Synge's The Playboy of the Western World and Hofmann sang Christy Mahon, the non-hero. He also sang Max in Weber's Der Freischütz.

Hofmann sang his second iconic role, Parsifal, in 1976 at Stuttgart and then Munich. The same year Siegmund was his debut role in Bayreuth, the Paris Opéra and at Covent Garden. At this point in his career the tenor's attraction was irresistible; despite some lack of weight in the voice his Siegmund was magnificent, especially in the more lyrical music, such as the long scene with Sieglinde in the first act. He returned to Covent Garden as Max in 1978, in particularly good voice, but needing a double to climb down into the Wolf's Glen as he had had a bad accident the previous summer. Meanwhile he had made his US debut at San Francisco as Siegmund. Because of the accident he did not sing at Bayreuth in 1977, but returned in 1978 as Parsifal, which he sang at Covent Garden the following year.

Hofmann's Parsifal was even better than his Siegmund. He seemed more comfortable vocally in the role, while dramatically it also suited him very well. He sang it at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1980 to great acclaim.

By now the third iconic role, Lohengrin, was in his repertory. He sang it in Vienna in 1978 and at Bayreuth in 1979. That year he also acquired three other new roles: Bacchus in Richard Strauss' Ariadne auf Naxos at Hamburg; Loge in Wagner's Das Rheingold at Strasbourg; and Florestan in a concert performance of Beethoven's Fidelio at Carnegie Hall, his New York debut. He first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in 1980 as Lohengrin. During the next three seasons he sang the Swan Knight at La Scala, Milan, Barcelona, the Paris Opéra, San Francisco, Venice and Hamburg. He did not sing Lohengrin in London, but gave an apparently very fine performance with the Royal Opera in Manchester in 1981.

Hofmann took the part of Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld, the first tenor to sing Tristan, in Tony Palmer's TV film Wagner, with Richard Burton in the title role. The film was shown in 1983 but Hofmann did not sing Tristan on stage at Bayreuth until 1986, repeating it the following year. It was too heavy a role for him at this stage in his career. In 1988 he sang Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at Bayreuth, as well as Siegmund and Parsifal. After Lohengrin at the Met in 1986, he gave up that role, but continued with Parsifal at Bonn, Venice and Barcelona, as well as Siegmund in Berlin, Turin, Genoa and, for the last time in 1989, at Bayreuth.

From 1990 onwards he appeared 300 times as the protagonist of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg. He also continued his rock tours, but had to give up performing in 1999 because of advancing Parkinson's Disease.

Peter Hofmann, singer: born Marienbad, Germany 12 August 1944; twice married (three children); died Wunsiedel, Bavaria 30 November 2010.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea