Curt Taucher (1885-1954) was a German tenor whose three decade career took him to major theaters on both sides of the Atlantic. Born in Nuremberg, Taucher studied voice with Heinrich Hermann in Munich. He made his operatic debut at the State Theater Augsburg as Gounod’s Faust in the fall of 1908. In November of that same year, he was invited to appear as a principal artist with the National Theater Munich, again as Faust (the only role in his repertoire at the time!). Despite the limitations of his repertoire, the young tenor impressed conductor Felix Mottl, who offered him a contract with the company. Knowing that he would be overshadowed by Munich’s principal tenor Heinrich Knote, Taucher politely declined Mottl’s invitation and returned to Augsburg, where he believed he would be more prominently featured.
Taucher spent three seasons in Augsburg, building his repertoire, learning his craft and carefully avoiding heavier roles. He left Augsburg for Chemnitz in 1911, where he remained until accepting an offer from Hannover in 1915. In 1920, the tenor was offered a contract with the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden, the company that would remain his home base for the rest of his career. Taucher, who now found himself gravitating towards more dramatic roles, embraced the Wagnerian heroes as well as the principal roles in works by Strauss, Weber, Weill, Mascagni and d’Albert. He created a number of principal roles in world premieres, such as Menelaus in Strauss’ Die Ägyptischen Helena, Aurelius Galba in d’Albert’s Die Toten Augen, Horace in Schoeck’s Venus and the title roles in Weill’s Der Protagonist and Lothar’s Lord Spleen, Die Geschichte vom Lärmsheuen Mann.
In 1922, Taucher was invited to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he made his debut as Siegmund in Die Walküre on November 23. Critics seemed to run hot and cold over Taucher. Of his Lohengrin, W.J. Henderson opined that, “His was a workmanlike achievement, no more.” However, an unnamed critic for Musical America remarked that, as Siegfried, “Mr. Taucher was memorable as one of the brightest achievements of the afternoon.” Despite disagreements among critics, both Met management and New York audiences appreciated the tenor. Taucher sang 95 performances of 11 roles in Die Walküre, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger, Tristan und Isolde, Parsifal, Siegfried, Das Rheingold, Götterdämmerung, Der Freischütz and the North American premiere of Schillings’ Mona Lisa.
One event that had all of New York buzzing occurred during a March 11, 1925 Siegfried. During the opera’s final act, Taucher approached the Brünnhilde of Nanny Larsén-Todsen through a cloud of stage mist…and suddenly disappeared from view. The tenor stepped onto a malfunctioning trap door which opened, plunging him 25 feet to the basement below. Dazed but relatively uninjured (he escaped with bruised ribs and a broken finger), Taucher dusted himself off, hopped into an elevator and made it back to the stage to finish the scene!
After a final Siegmund in Die Walküre on January 17, 1927, Taucher left the Met and returned to Europe for good. Although Dresden remained his artistic home, he made guest appearances in London, Barcelona, Vienna, Salzburg, Berlin, Geneva, Zurich and Helsinki. Feeling that he no longer possessed the youthful vigor to sing the heroic roles of Wagner, but not wishing to enter the realm of character roles (“They are not very singable”, he was reported to have said), Taucher retired from the stage at the age of 50. He retreated to his estate in Bad Aibling where he died on August 7, 1954 at the age of 68.
Curt Taucher’s repertoire was a vast and varied one. Apart from the Wagnerian parts one would expect, he also sang such modern works as Max Brand’s Maschinist Hopkins, Graener's Hanneles Himmelfahrt, Schattmanns’ Die Hochzeit des Mönchs, Strauss’ Die Frau Ohne Schatten, Weinberger's Schwanda der Dudelsackpfeifer, Puccini’s Turandot and title roles in Pfitzner’s Palestrina, Mascagni’s Il Piccolo Marat, and Wolf-Ferrari’s Sly. Taucher’s recorded legacy is rather paltry, with only a handful of discs made in the 1920s for Polydor and Parlophon. Here, Taucher sings "Nun sei bedankt mein lieber Schwan" from Act I of Wagner's Lohengrin. This recording was made in Berlin for Polydor in 1922.