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Olaf Bär (Baritone)

Born: December 19, 1957 - Dresden, Saxony, Germany

The German baritone, Olaf Bär, is considered to be one of the foremost Lieder interpreters of his generation and regularly appears in the world's greatest recital venues.

Olaf Bär sang in the Kreuzchor of Dresden from 1966 to 1975 and studied at the Hochschule für Musik in Dresden. In 1982 he won the 1st Prize in Dvořák vocal competition in Karlovy Vary, and, in 1983, 1st prize in the vocal competition sponsored by the East German opera houses and the Walter Grüner Lieder Competition in London.

In 1981 Olaf Bär made his operatic debut in Dresden, and from 1985 to 1991 he was a principal member of the State Opera there. He made his British debut in a recital at London’s Wigmore Hall in 1983, returning to London in 1985 to make his operatic debut as Strauss Harlekin at Covent Garden.

Olaf Bär has made major recital tours of Australia and Japan and has given recitals in New York, San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia, in addition to many international festivals including Salzburg. He is currently one of the most frequent recitalists at the Wigmore Hall in London. Future recital venues include Barcelona, Dublin, Brussels, Munich, Toronto, Washington, Siena, Genova, Stockholm, Istanbul, Madrid and Vienna's Musikverein.

Olaf Bär is equally at home in the concert hall and opera house. His concert repertoire covers music from the baroque to the twentieth century including Gustav Mahler's Kindertotenlieder, J.S. Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and many of the cantatas, Benjamin Britten's War Requiem, the Johannes Brahms Requiem, and Haydn's Creation. He has appeared with many of the world's finest orchestras and conductors including the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas, and Orchestra Filarmonica della Scala under Riccardo Muti. His work in Opera includes appearances at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (Harlekin/Ariadne auf Naxos and Papageno), at La Scala, Milan (Papageno), at the Aix-en-Provence Festival (Harlekin/Gugliemo), in Frankfurt (Gugliemo), at the Vienna State Opera (Harlekin, Olivier/Capriccio), the Netherlands Opera (Count/Le Nozze di Figaro), and the title role in Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne, as well as many principal roles at the Semper Oper in Dresden.

Early in 1997, Olaf Bär made his highly successful American operatic debut as Papageno in Chicago, and has also appeared more recently as a guest artist in Dresden, performing as Marcello, Germost Pere and as the Count/Le Nozze di Figaro (with Colin Davis). Olaf Bär's success at the Vienna Festival in May, in Schubert's Alfonso e Estrella has led to a return invitation to sing Dr Falke in 1999, also with Harnoncourt/Flimm. His other future operatic appearances including the Count /Le Nozze di Figaro in Rome, Wolfram in Dresden and Don Giovanni in Verona.

His recordings of opera and concert repertoire include performances in Ein Deusches Requiem and Die Zauberflöte with Roger Norrington and the London Classical Players, a disc of Bach Cantatas with Peter Schreier and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and both Maurice Duruflé and Gabriel Fauré Requiems. All are available on EMI Classics.

In the summer of 1985 Olaf Bär made his first Lieder record for EMI Classics, a programme of Robert Schumann's Dichterliebe Op.48 and Liederkreis Op.39. Since then, under his exclusive contract for Lieder with EMI Classics, he has recorded much of the most important Lieder repertoire, including Schubert's Die schöne Müllerin, (which won a Gramophone award) Winterreise and Schwanengesang, a selection of Wolf's Mörike Lieder, Robert Schumann's Liederkreis Op.24 and Kerner-Lieder Op.35, and a disc of songs by J. Brahms. His accompanist in all of these recitals was the late Geoffrey Parsons.

Olaf Bär has also joined forces with the Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sophie von Otter to record Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch, again recorded with Geoffrey Parsons. The songs are performed in an order devised by Bär himself, and the recording was released by EMI Classics in June 1995. EMI Classics issued a recording featuring Olaf Bär in August, September and October 1995. First, a disc of J. Brahms' Liebesliederwalzer, Op.52, and Neue Liebeslieder, Op.65, and Robert Schumann's Spanische Liebeslieder, Op.138. For this Bär was joined once again by Anne Sophie von Otter, as well as soprano Barbara Bonney, tenor Kurt Streit and the pianists Helmut Deutsch and Bengt Forsberg. This was followed by a recital of Liebeslieder and a collection of Lieder written by German composers primarily known for their operas, once again in partnership with Helmut Deutsch.

In August 1996 EMI Classics released a new recording of Wolf's Italienisches Liederbuch on which Olaf Bär is joined not only by Helmut Deutsch, but also by the soprano Dawn Upshaw. In November 1996 this was followed by a Christmas album, Weihnachten in Deutschen Lied and in January 1997, a compilation of Robert Schumann Lieder, Romances & Ballades, both recorded with the accompanist Helmut Deutsch. In November 1997 EMI Classics released a collection of J. Brahms Lieder, Op. 63, 71, 72 and 94, together with Four Serious Songs Op 121, accompanied by the pianist Helmut Deutsch. Other recordings have included a disc of Robert Schumann Lieder, Op 25 & 27, with the soprano Juliane Banse and the accompanist Helmut Deutsch, released in April 1998.

Source: EMI Classic Website (May 1999)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (May 2001); Matthias Hansen (Photo 11 - May 2010)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




Georg Christoph Biller


BWV 244 [Video]

Martin Flämig


BWV 244 [4th],

John Eliot Gardiner


BWV 36, BWV 61, BWV 62, BWV 244, BWV 248

Paul Goodwin


Aria from BWV 248

Daniel Harding


BWV 244 [Jesus]

Peter Schreier


BWV 56, BWV 82, BWV 158, BWV 233-236, BWV 243, BWV 244, BWV 245

Georg Solti


BWV 244

Gothart Stier


BWV 244

Links to other Sites

Olaf Bär (Lotte Lehmann Foundation) [German]

Olaf Bär - Biography (Augstein)

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