SO WURDE ICH OPERNSÄNGER by Dietmar Cordan (in German)

ISBN 978-3-86846-116-9, Verlag Dohr Köln 303 pp , 24,80 Euro

Click here to order the book + click here for the singer's website


Very often biographies of the “second tier” opera singers are more rewarding than those by the big names. They’re more open, more generous, more honest (nothing to hide here) and in general give a better idea what a shark world the opera world in reality is.

Our tenor in question grew up in post-war Germany in the ancient Roman town of Trier. In this sense this book is also a personal history of Germany (West and East!) in the direct post-war period. The author describes in great detail the hardships and struggle in a nation trying to rebuild itself from the catastrophe brought on by Nazism, the resident occupying forces etc.

Cordan was born in 1941 yet one subject he regrettably seems to avoid which is the war itself. Where did his family stand in the political spectrum? How did the people of Trier react to what had happened?
Otherwise the narrative makes an interesting read.  As a one time visitor to his hometown I could relate to many details he provides of the city, the only two things which remain in my memory (besides the Roman antiquities) were a wonderful record shop and a Karl Marx museum (born in Trier).

Initially working as a chemist Cordan slowly moves towards a career as an opera singer in the mid-sixties. A “German version of Piero de Palma” he was engaged at the Cologne opera from 1969 to 1971 and moved on to Salzburg, Augsburg and Essen. From 1980 he decided to work as a freelance singer. His biggest roles were Adam in Der Postillon de Lonjumeau, Rodolfo in La bohème and Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi. In total he sang over 50 operatic roles and appeared in 12 operettas.

His life as a singer is exciting, courageous, disturbing, funny, exhilarating yet there is also the inevitable tristesse. Many an artist and colleagues are being discussed from Mario Lanza to the other Mario (Del Monaco), Wolfgang Brendel (die herrliche Stimme), Boris Blacher, (die sympatische) Janet Baker, Maria Callas (ein Vulkan), Robert Ilosvalfy (bewundert!!), Fritz Wunderlich (sensational), Helga Bullock (mother of Sandra), etc.etc

The book is illustrated with over 70 photos, there’s a career survey, a repertory list, and an index.

This is a generous and sincere book. Cordan gives an honest insight into the sheer hard work and sacrifice required to be an opera singer. At the same time the joy and pleasure of singing come over very clearly. A fascinating account not to be missed by any true lover of singing and tenor singing in particular.

Rudi van den Bulck, November 2021