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
  • Get to the point
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: HR and Payroll Manager

£35000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This dynamic outsourced contact...

Recruitment Genius: Production & Quality Control Assistant

£19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity for a ...

Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor - Kettering - £32,000

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group HR Advisor with an established...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Generalist

£40 - 50k (DOE) + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a HR Manager / HR Genera...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing