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Josef Protschka (Tenor)

Born: February 5, 1944 - Prague, Czechoslovakia

The Czech-born German tenor, Josef Protschka, was born in Prague to German parents, and he grew up from his early youth in Düsseldorf. He exhibited talent as a child and thus sang in performances of the so-called Schuloper, Der Jasager, by Kurt Weill, recording it as well in 1955. He studied classical philology, philosophy and German literature at the Univesities of Bonn and Tübingen (exam with distinction, 1970). He studied singing with Kammersängerin Erika Köth and Professor Peter Witsch at Musikhochschule Köln.

Except his artistic occupation, Josef Protschka: worked from 1970 to 1973 on a doctoral thesis on the theme "Formen der Komik im europäischen Drama des 17. Jahrhunderts". (forms of comedy in the European drama of the 17th century). At the same time, he was teacher for German language and literature at the DAAD, Lecturer at the Department of Germanic Studies at the University of Bonn, free journalistic activity (especially for DLF in Germany and ORF in Austria). During the years 1973-1977, when he made the decision to dedicate himself exclusively to his singing-career, he was speaker and managing director of the Geschäftsführer der Bischöflichen Studienstiftung Cusanuswerk (Episcopal Scholarship Foundation Cusanuswerk).

After finshing his singing studies, Josef Protschka slowly shaped his career, appearing in concerts and solo recitals, not making his official operatic debut until 1977, in Gießen, Germany. After other appearances on-stage and further concerts and Lieder recitals, including at Stadttheater Gießen (1977-1978) and Staatstheater Saarbrücken (1978-1980), he began singing at the Oper Köln in 1980. He built up his basic repertoire in the Oper Köln, at first as W.A. Mozart tenor of high international reputation, than consequently with main roles of the dramatic fach (Jenik; Tom Rakewell; Don Jose; Max; Hermann; Eric etc. ).

Josef Protschka's first important recordings were beginning to appear around this time. Among them was the 1980 release of Heinrich August Marschner's seldom-staged effort Der Vampyr. He debuted at Salzburg Festival in 1985, singing Peisander in Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse, and at the Drottningholm Palace Theater, Sweden, the following year as Idomeneus in W.A. Mozart's Idomeneo. He debuted at Covent Garden in London in 1990, singing Florestan in L.v. Beethoven's Fidelio, and at the Houston Grand Opera the following year singing Titus in W.A. Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito. He has appeared in most of Europe's major opera houses, including Vienna State Opera, Scala di Milano, SemperOpera Dresden, State Opera Hamburg, Opera Zürich, Teatre de la Monnaie Brüssel (Debut: Lohengrin), Bregenz Festival (Debut: Hoffmann), Wiener Festwochen (Debut: Fierrabras), Maggio Musicale Firenze (Debut: Flamand), etc, as well as guest appearances in America and Japan. Later roles included Tom Rakewell in Igor Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress and Werther in Massenet's eponymous opera.

Josef Protschka's recordings were gaining greater notice now, and among the more important of them were his 1987 L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis on Aurophon and the Nikolaus Harnoncourt-led Die Fledermaus on Elektra, from 1988, in which Protschka portrayed Alfred. Other successful recordings followed, including discs of W.A. Mozart Lieder and arias, and Wagner's The Flying Dutchman. Continous cooperation for many years with leading stage directors and conductors, numerous productions for TV and international radio stations and more than fifty disc recordings, the most of them honoured by prestigious international critic awards. In the new century, he has been less active in his career, though he did appear on a DVD recording of the L.v. Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in 2000, conducted by Michael Gielen for the Pioneer Classics label.

Josef Protschka's is celebrated worldwide as concert singer (oratorio; Lieder) and opera singer with a surpassing wide repertoire, including Monteverdi, W.A. Mozart, Schubert, Charles Gounod, I. Stravinsky, and others in opera, and W.A. Mozart, Schubert, and Robert Schumann, to name a few, in Lieder. He is appearing since nearly forty years regulary in the most important operahouses in Europe and America, in major festivals and media-events. He emerged as one of the more important tenors of his generation, despite a belated start to his operatic career.

Since the mid-1990's, Josef Protschka is Professor for singing and interpretation in Copenhagen (DKDM) and Cologne / Aken (HfMT Köln); he is giving master-classes at many places in Europe, Southafrica and China. Since many years he is a demanded juror in prestigious international singing competitions. From 2002 to 2009, he was the principal (Rektor) of the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz Köln. Since 2012, he is running additionally the SVI (studio for vocal interpretation) in Pulheim near Cologne. In 2006, he conducted master-classes in singing at Kleinkummerfeld, Germany, focusing primarily on the music of Robert Schumann.

Source: Josef Protschka Website; All Music Guide Website (Authgor: Robert Cummings)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2016)

Josef Protschka: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works under his name

Links to other Sites

Josef Protschka - Biography (AMG)
Josef Protschka (Wikipedia) [German]

Josef Protschka - Operntenor und Liedinterpret, Hochschulprofessor (Official Website) [German]
Beethovenstiftung Bonn: Prof. Josef Protschka [Germa]

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