Born: January 30, 1897 Died: December 9, 1950
Sometimes referred to as a bass, but really as bass-baritone, Georg Hann possessed the dark, biting tone to match the weightiness of many true basses. His extravagant stage personality often led him into caprice as he pushed and pulled the music about, creating riveting characterizations that not infrequently veered into the lurid. Although a Viennese by birth, Hann enjoyed his greatest successes in Munich, undertaking a wide range of both bass and baritone roles there. He sang until his untimely death at the age of 53, presenting through the very last year of his life the same out-sized personality that had been his trademark. Hann studied at the Vienna Academy with Theodor Lierhammer before joining the Munich Staatsoper in 1927; he remained with that company for the rest of his life. After his 1931 Salzburg Festival debut (as Pizarro in Fidelio), Hann continued to perform in that venue until 1949. In 1947, he was among the star-filled Salzburg cast (Julius Patzak, Maria Cebotari, Paul Schöffler, Ludwig Weber) to appear in the world premiere of Gottfried von Einem's Danton's Tod. The singer had made an early appearance at London's Covent Garden in 1924 when he was scarcely noticed amidst Göta Ljungberg's Salome and other such singers as Maria Olszewska and Emil Shipper. Returning to Covent Garden after WWII with the Vienna Staatsoper, Hann appeared as a "buffo" Leporello and, as Pizarro, menaced a Fidelio cast including Julius Patzak, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, and Ludwig Weber, all of them propelled by the fiery conducting of Clemens Krauss. In addition to Munich, Vienna, and London, Hann sang in Paris, Berlin, and Milan, though he never undertook an American career. Equally renowned for dramatic and comic roles, his Falstaff in Nicolai's Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor was justly celebrated as was his Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier (although it was his Faninal that was preserved on a wartime recording of that opera). He sang both Papageno and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, was a forceful (if rough-toned) Amfortas in Parsifal, and even sang the title role in Rigoletto, despite its high tessitura. Perhaps best-known on recording for his La Roche in Strauss' Capriccio (a role he created in Munich in 1942) and his Daland in a 1944 Fliegende Holländer featuring the magisterial Dutchman of Hans Hotter, Hann was captured on many other wartime recordings preserving some frantic performances from the bass baritone and his colleagues. Among these rare items, all sung in German, are a 1945 Cavalleria Rusticana in which Hann sings Alfio to the Santuzza of Hilde Scheppan and the Turiddu of a young Hans Hopf. A year earlier, Hann had sung Tonio (a role the composer had originally intended for a bass) with the potent Canio of Helge Rosvaenge and Hilde Scheppan, this time as Nedda. Perhaps the prize of the lot is a 1944 Tosca in which Hann's Scarpia hectors the Tosca of Hildegarde Ranczak to the point of dramatic annihilation. A less desperate-sounding Aida from 1938 preserved Hann's Amonasro in a cast offering the Aida of Margarete Teschemacher and the Radames of Helge Rosvaenge. In addition to performances recorded live, Hann made numerous discs of various opera arias and songs, all capturing his long range and vivid singing.