Ernst Haefliger

6.07.1919 - 17.03.2007
Voice/Instrument: Tenor


Born: July 6, 1919 - Davos, Switzerland
Died: March 17, 2007 - Davos, Switzerland

The noted Swiss tenor, Ernst Haefliger (Häfliger), is recognized as one of the great vocal artists of the 20th century. His worldwide reputation rests on his supreme interpretation of German Lieder, opera and oratorio which he has performed regularly throughout Europe, Japan and the USA. World-renowned for his interpretations of Bach, his performances of the Evangelist in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) have set a worldwide standard. He is equally acclaimed and admired as one of the world's great lieder singers, and his recitals and master-classes have become legendary.

Ernst Haefliger studied at the Wettinger Seminary and the Zürich Conservatory. Later he became a pupil of Fernando Capri in Geneva, and of the noted tenor Julius Patzak in Vienna. He devoted himself to lieder and choral works, and soon established a reputation for impeccable style and musicianship.

He made his debut in Geneva in 1942 as the Evangelist in Bach's St John Passion (BWV 245). Ernst Haefliger entered the world of opera at the suggestion of the late conductor Ferenc Fricsay. He sang with the Zürich Opera from 1943 to 1952, and made his Salzburg Festival début in 1949 as 1st Armed Man in Die Zauberflöte. He gained wide recognition when he created the role of Tiresias in the world premiere of Orff's Oedipus (or Antigonae?) with the Zürich Opera at the Salzburg Festival in 1949. His Glyndebourne début was in 1956 as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. From 1952 to 1974 he was a member and first lyric tenor of the Berlin Städtische (later Deutsche) Oper, but he also appeared as a guest artist with many of the principal European opera houses.

Ernst Haefliger’s roles in Mozart’s operas were particularly esteemed. It was as Tamino in The Magic Flute that he made his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1966. His first performance in North America was at the 1959 Vancouver Festival, where he was heard by Bruno Walter who invited him to record Gustav Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde.

Ernst Haefliger pursued a distinguished career as a concert singer. His appearances as the Evangelist in Bach’s Passions were notable. One of his tours of the USA was chiefly devoted to performances of the Bach St. John Passion (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), with stops including Boston, Hartford, Princeton, New York, and Washington, D.C. He sang in premiere performances of Frank Martin's oratorios Le vin herbé (Zürich 1942), In terra pax (Geneva radio 1945) and Golgotha (Geneva 1949).

Ernst Haefliger is applauded as one of the world's great Lieder singers, and his recitals have evoked the highest praise from critics throughout the world. He has sung regularly in the leading European concert halls, both in recital and with orchestra. During his career, he has made numerous New York appearances -- at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and in song/voice/vocal series at the Metropolitan Museum and Carnegie Hall.

In recent seasons, Ernst Haefliger has performed the role of Speaker in Arnold Schoenberg's Gurrelieder with the Pittsburgh Symphony, Houston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, Toronto Symphony, Munich Philharmonic, and with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and James Levine in New York’s Carnegie Hall and in Tokyo. He also gave masterclasses in Zürich, at the Marlboro Music Festival, and in Japan.

Ernst Haefliger's many recordings have been released by Angel, Columbia, Vanguard and Philips Records. Deutsche Grammophon has issued a box set of twelve CD’s entitled “The Art of Ernst Haefliger,” with repertoire ranging from Bach to Janácek and including the three great Schubert song cycles.

Ernst Haefliger was Professor of singing at the Munich Hochschule für Musik from 1971. He wrote Die Singstimme (Berne 1983). 

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