Karl Böhm



by Alice Lechner
August 20, 2023
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Karl Böhm was born on August 28th, 1894, in Graz, Austria. He displayed a strong interest in music from a young age and began his musical education with piano lessons. He also studied violin, which gave him a solid foundation in instrumental technique. Böhm’s formal education in music continued when he enrolled at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts. He studied there from 1913 to 1917. This period of his education exposed him to a rigorous curriculum, including in-depth studies of music theory, history, and composition. While at the academy, Böhm focused on conducting under the guidance of Franz Schalk, a prominent Austrian conductor. Schalk’s tutelage contributed significantly to shaping Böhm’s conducting style and approach. His career began to take shape during and after his time at the Vienna Academy. He worked as a répétiteur and conductor at various opera houses and theaters, which provided him with practical experience in working with singers, orchestras, and ensembles.

In 1917, Böhm became a rehearsal assistant in his hometown, making his debut as a conductor in Viktor Nessler’s Der Trompeter von Säckingen in 1917. He became the assistant director in 1919, and the following year, the senior director. On the recommendation of Karl Muck, Bruno Walter engaged him at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich in 1920.

One of the most significant points in Böhm’s career was his association with the Vienna State Opera. He conducted there for many years and held the position of principal conductor from 1943 to 1945. This was an important period for him, in which he conducted the first performances of operas by Richard Strauss: Die schweigsame Frau (1935) and Daphne (1938), which is dedicated to him. He also conducted the first performances of Romeo und Julia (1940) and Die Zauberinsel (1942) by Heinrich Sutermeister, and Strauss’s Horn Concerto No. 2 (1943).

Böhm first appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1938, conducting Don Giovanni, and thereafter he became a permanent guest conductor. He secured a top post at the Wiener Staatsoper in 1943, eventually becoming music director. On the occasion of the 80th birthday of Richard Strauss, on  June 11th, 1944, he conducted the Vienna State Opera performance of Ariadne auf Naxos.

After World War II.

Following the end of World War II, Böhm resumed his conducting career with renewed energy. He had already established himself as a respected conductor before the war, and his reputation helped him regain his standing in the post-war music scene. Böhm’s reputation as a conductor extended beyond Vienna. He was invited to conduct major orchestras and opera houses around the world, including in Europe, North America, and Asia. His interpretations of German and Austrian composers, as well as his contributions to the broader classical repertoire, were sought after.

In 1957, Böhm made his debut with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducting Don Giovanni, and quickly became one of the favorite conductors of the Met’s Rudolf Bing era, conducting 262 performances there, including the Met premieres of WozzeckAriadne auf Naxos and Die Frau ohne Schatten, which was the first major success in the Met’s new house at Lincoln Center. 

Böhm made his debut at the Bayreuth Festival in 1962 with Tristan and Isolde, which he conducted until 1970. In 1964, he led Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg there, and from 1965 to 1967 the composer’s Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle, which was the last production by Wieland Wagner.

Karl Böhm’s involvement with the Nazi system during World War II is a complex and controversial aspect of his career. Like many artists and professionals in Germany and Austria at that time, Böhm had to navigate the political and social landscape of the era. Böhm joined various Nazi-affiliated organizations during the 1930s. He became a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), the Nazi party, in 1933. He also joined the Nazi-controlled German Musicians’ Association, which was established to promote Nazi cultural policies within the music community. Böhm’s career during the Nazi era saw him conducting in various capacities. He was appointed as the principal conductor of the Dresden State Opera in 1934 and held this position until 1943. He also conducted at the Bayreuth Festival, an event closely associated with the Nazi regime due to its connections with Richard Wagner’s music and the Wagner family’s involvement with the Nazis.

Karl Böhm had a significant and influential relationship with the composer Richard Strauss. Böhm’s connection with Strauss extended beyond the musical realm. His professional collaboration with Richard Strauss was marked by mutual respect and understanding of the composer’s music. Böhm’s interpretations of Strauss’s works are often considered some of the finest in the repertoire. His conducting style, characterized by attention to detail and a focus on the composer’s intentions, aligned well with the complexities and nuances of Strauss’s compositions. Böhm’s interpretations of Richard Strauss’s operas are particularly noteworthy. He conducted many of Strauss’s operas, including Der Rosenkavalier, Elektra, Salome, Arabella, and more. Böhm’s conducting highlighted the emotional depth, intricate orchestration, and dramatic elements present in Strauss’s operatic works.

Karl Böhm passed away on August 14th, 1981, in Salzburg, Austria, at the age of 86. 


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Alice Lechner

Alice Lechner comes from a music-loving family. Her first encounter with the opera universe was at the tender age of six. The grandeur of the stage productions and costumes, the backstage chatter, and last, but definitely not least, the music left her in awe, beginning with Mozart’s Don Giovanni. The overall feeling that opera awakens in anyone who gets a glimpse into this part of artistic eternity, that each and every day passes the test of time, was what drew her to stay and be a part of this world. The Opera House of Brașov became her second home, and the people who worked there were her second family.

Since then, Alice has devoted her spare time to maximising her musical knowledge through instrumental studies, studying both piano and violin for a short time. In the following years, her number one passion stepped out of the limelight and graciously gave way to Law Studies.
Since 2018 she has been studying Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Her passion for opera, even if it is no longer her top professional priority in terms of career, it has most definitely become her priority during her free time. Wanting to experience the best of both worlds and extend her musical horizons, she regularly attends opera performances throughout Romania and abroad.
With OPERA Charm Magazine, Alice aims to nurture her creative side to help it flourish and bloom and to discover, alongside the magazine’s readers, the fascinatingly complex world of opera.

Currently, she is an LL.M. in Business Law at “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University in Iași.

Oana Zamfir

Oana Zamfir is a second year MA student at the “George Enescu” National University of Arts, at the Department of Musicology.

She studied violin for 12 years at the “Stefan Luchian” High School of Art in Botosani, later focusing on the theoretical aspects of music. In 2019 she completed her bachelor studies in Musicology as a student of the National Academy of Music “Gheorghe Dima” in Cluj-Napoca. Her research during 2018-2019 brought to the forefront elements of the archaic ritual within works of composers who activated during the communist period, giving her the opportunity to start a research internship at the “Carl von Ossietzky” University in Germany. In this context, she recorded conversations with members of the Sophie Drinker Institute in Bremen, and had access to documents directly from the Myriam Marbé archive.

Since 2019 she has been a teacher of Music Education and Theoretical Music Studies, making full use of interactive methods in the musical training of students and working, at the same time, with the children’s choir founded in the first year of her activity.

Her interests include pursuing a degree in interior design in 2020.

Alexandru Suciu

Alexandru Suciu inherited his passion for art growing up in a family of several generations of musicians. He began his musical studies at the “Augustin Bena” School of Music in Cluj, where he studied piano and guitar. Even though his main study direction was philological, his passion for music prevailed. He began his academical journey at the Faculty of Letters of the “Babeș-Bolyai” University, studying Comparative literature and English. He continued by studying Opera Singing at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy. He also graduated the Musical Education section, followed by Artistic Directing at the Musical Performing Arts department.

His multidisciplinary education opened the doors towards research, which is seen both through his participation in national and international conferences and symposia, such as the Salzburg Easter School PhD-forum, organized by the Salzburg Universität or the Silesian Meeting of Young Scholars, organized by the Institute of English at the University of Silesia, as well as the collaboration with Opera Charm Magazine.

During his student years, he won several prizes, including the Grand Prize at the “Paul Constantinescu” National Musical Interpretation Competition, the Romanian Composers and Musicologists’ Union Prize at the same competition, the First Prize and the Schubert Prize at the “Ada Ulubeanu” Competition.

He further developed his artistic skills by specializing in courses and masterclasses held by personalities such as Vittorio Terranova, Giuseppe Sabbatini, Marian Pop, Ines Salazar, Riccardo Zanellato, Paolo Bosisio, Valentina Farcaș and Manuel Lange in contexts such as the Internationale Sommerakademie für Operngesang Deutschlandsberg, Corso Internazionale di Canto Lirico I.M.C. Licata or the Europäische Akademie für Musik und darstellende Kunst Montepulciano. Besides his activity on-stage, he currently teaches Opera Singing Didactics, and Pedagogical Practice within the Department for Teacher Education and Training at the “Gheorghe Dima” National Music Academy.

Cristina Fieraru

Cristina is a 24 year-old Romanian soprano & a student at the National University of Music Bucharest, where she pursues the MA program in Vocal Performance.

She made her debut in Pamina from “Die Zauberflöte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at only 19 years old at the Bucharest National Opera House, as a member of the Ludovic Spiess Experimental Opera Studio. Over the years she made her debut in roles such as Contessa d’Almaviva (Le nozze di Figaro), Mimì & Musetta (La Bohème), Alice Ford (Falstaff), Erste Dame (Die Zauberflöte) in her university’s opera productions.
Her passion and experience extends in the field of choral music, too.

She has been part of our dream team since the fall of 2021. For a good period of time she took care of OPERA Charm’s social media and took you on the monthly journey through the history of opera through our Legends rubric – and a few times through the Theaters around the World rubric.

Her little soul rubric – from 2021 to present – is definitely the Conductors of the Future, where, every month, she gives you the chance to meet a young star of the world of conducting and, of course, to find out what’s the most charming feature of opera in these artists’ views.


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