Charles Kullman (1903-1983) was born in New Haven, CT and attended Yale University, intending to become a doctor. Although he majored in medicine, he became active as a soloist with Yale’s famous Glee Club. After receiving his Bachelor of Science in 1924, Kullman decided to abandon medicine altogether and focus on music. He was awarded a scholarship to study at Julliard and spent three years there before accepting a fellowship to continue his studies at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. After returning to the States, Kullman became part of the music faculty at Smith College in Northampton, MA. While at Smith, the young tenor gave faculty recitals and sang in productions of Xerxes and Orfeo, among others. Kullman’s singing brought him to the attention of East Coast critics and he resigned his post at Smith when it became obvious that a stage career was looming on the horizon. After cutting his teeth with vaudeville revues and operatic touring companies, Kullman traveled to Europe where he made his Berlin debut (at the Kroll Opera) as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly in 1931. Important debuts followed over the course of the next few seasons…Berlin Staatsoper, Vienna Staatsoper, The Salzburg Festival, Covent Garden…and Kullman returned to the U.S. for his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1935 as Faust. He remained at the MET for twenty-five seasons, where he sang over four hundred performances of more than thirty roles. Among the diverse roles in Kullman’s repertoire were the Duke in Rigoletto, Alfredo in La Traviata, Fenton in Falstaff, Walther in Die Meistersinger, Don José in Carmen, Erik in The Flying Dutchman, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Tamino in The Magic Flute, Almaviva in The Barber of Seville and even a few character roles such as Don Basilio in Le Nozze di Figaro, Prince Shuisky in Boris Godonov and Goro in Madama Butterfly that he adopted during his last two seasons at the MET. During his busy career, Kullman also found the time to appear in the 1938 film “The Goldwyn Follies”, the 1947 film “Song of Scheherazade”, as well as a handful of German films. Kullman accepted a position on the music faculty at Indiana University in 1956 and divided his time between teaching and performing for a few years. As he approached the age of sixty, the tenor decided to exclusively devote his energies to his academic career and retired from the operatic stage. Kullman remained at IU until 1970, when he joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute. The tenor remained at Curtis for only a single year, retiring to his hometown of New Haven in 1971. After enjoying a dozen years of leisure, Charles Kullman passed away in 1983 at the age of 80.
In this recording, Kullman sings "Komm in die Gondel" (topped with a brilliant high C) from Strauss' Eine Nacht in Venedig. This aria was recorded in 1932 for Columbia Records in Berlin.