Obituary: Marko Rothmuller

Aaron Rothmuller (Marko Rothmuller), singer, born Trnjani Croatia 1904, married Margrit Silverstein (two sons), died Bloomington Indiana 20 January 1993.

THE CROATIAN baritone Marko Rothmuller, a member of the Covent Garden Opera Company, in London, in the immediate post-war years, was a very fine actor-singer, whose performances of Rigoletto, Scarpia, Jokanaan and similar heavyweight roles were greatly admired.

During the same period he appeared frequently at Glyndebourne in a rather different repertory that included Mozart's Count Almaviva and Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress. He sang the title-role of Wozzeck in the first British stage performance (1952) of Alban Berg's opera, having as a young man studied composition with Berg in Vienna. Rothmuller himself wrote a Symphony for Strings, two string quartets and other chamber music, and also published a book, Die Musik der Juden, which was translated into English. After his retirement as a singer, he taught music at the University of Indiana, at Bloomington.

Born Aaron Rothmuller in Trnjani, a village near Brod, he showed early promise as a musician. When he was four his parents, who were shopkeepers, moved to Zagreb, where he was educated. At the Academy of Music he studied not only singing but violin, piano, harmony and counterpoint. He also collected folk-songs and conducted choral performances. In 1928 he went to Vienna to study composition with Berg and singing with the Hungarian baritone Franz Steiner. His voice had developed into a strong, warm-toned and flexible instrument and during his last year as a student he began to sing in concerts.

Rothmuller made his operatic debut in September 1932 as Prince Ottokar in Die Freischutz at Hamburg-Altona, where he was engaged at the Schiller Opera House. After a year he was forced to leave by the growth of anti-Semitism in Germany, and returned to Zagreb. At the National Theatre he sang the Verdi baritone roles as well as Telramund in Lohengrin and Amfortas in Parsifal. Amfortas became his favourite role, although he never sang it in London, unfortunately. In 1935 Rothmuller became a member of the Stadttheater, Zurich, where he remained throughout the Second World War.

At Zurich, where he made his debut in the title-role of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, Rothmuller acquired a vast and very varied repertory, ranging from Mozart, Gluck and Rossini to Berlioz, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Puccini. In 1938 he created the part of Truchsess von Waldburg in Hindemith's Mathis der Maler. He sang Vendramin in Othmar Schoeck's Massimilla Doni and many other roles in modern works, but the core of his repertory was Verdi: Germont pere, Amonasro, Renato (Un ballo in maschera), Luna, Ford, Miller, Iago, Amonasro and, in particular, Rigoletto.

After the war in 1946, while continuing to sing in Zurich, Rothmuller joined the Vienna State Opera, with whom he visited Covent Garden in 1947, as Jokanaan in Salome. This was not his first visit to London. He had made his Covent Garden debut in 1938 as Krusina in The Bartered Bride, and earlier in 1947 he sang Rigoletto for the New London Opera Company at the Cambridge Theatre. In 1948 he joined the Covent Garden Opera Company, and the following year he began his association with Glyndebourne by singing Guglielmo in Cosi fan tutte at the Edinburgh Festival.

Rothmuller soon became a much-valued member of the ensemble at Covent Garden. His Escamillo, his Tomsky in The Queen of Spades, his Gunther in Gotterdammerung were eloquently acted and sung; his Rigoletto and Scarpia were memorable, outsize characterisations; but it was undoubtedly as Wozzeck that he made the strongest impression. Under the magic baton of Erich Kleiber he found humanity in a poor, down-trodden creature and expressed the hidden feelings of a man unable to express them for himself.

Glyndebourne provided Rothmuller with two of his best Verdi roles, Don Carlo in La forza del destino and Macbeth, both of them sung at the Edinburgh Festival. In 1954-55, at Glyndebourne, he gave a superb performance of Nick Shadow in The Rake's Progress - his English diction was particularly good. The rest of his career was spent in the United States. Having made his US debut in 1948 with New York City Opera, he first sang at the Metropolitan during the 1959-60 season as Kothner in Die Meistersinger and Biterolf in Tannhauser, returning for the 1965-66 season. Then he taught in New York before going to Bloomington.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot