The son of the proprietor of the Salzburg Gablerbräu, a hotel and brewery, Richard Mayr was a medical student in Vienna, where he sang with the choral society of the Vienna Academy of Music (he was later to study singing here). During 1900 he sang the bass part in Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis in Bolzano and in Dvořák’s Requiem in Vienna.
Having been recommended by the concertmaster of the Vienna Court Opera to Cosima Wagner, Mayr made his Bayreuth debut in 1902 as Hagen / Götterdämmerung, repeating this role in 1904, 1908 and 1924 as well as singing Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and Gurnemanz / Parsifal between 1910 and 1914. A month after his Bayreuth debut he first appeared at the Vienna Court Opera at the invitation of its Music Director Gustav Mahler, singing Silva / Ernani. An immensely popular singer, Mayr remained an important member of the Viennese company for the rest of his life.
At Vienna Mayr’s extraordinary versatility led to his appearance in a very wide range of roles, from Figaro / Le nozze di Figaro and Leporello / Don Giovanni to Wotan / Der Ring des Nibelungen and Sarastro / Die Zauberflöte. Having assumed the role of Baron Ochs / Der Rosenkavalier for the work’s Viennese premiere in 1911 he was hailed by the opera’s creators as the Ochs par excellence. At Vienna he also sang in the first performance of Schmidt’s Notre-Dame (1914), created the role of Barak / Die Frau ohne Schatten in its world premiere of 1919, sang Baron Waldner / Arabella for the first Viennese performance of 1933 and took part in the first performance of Julius Bittner’s Das Veilchen in 1934.
From 1905 Mayr also appeared frequently with the Frankfurt Opera; and from 1906 at the earliest Salzburg Festivals. After the Festival was formally organised in 1922 he was a regular participant, singing (in addition to many of his repertoire roles) Dr Pandolfo / La serva padrona (1926, which he also directed); the title role in Don Pasquale (1925, 1930); Rocco / Fidelio (1925, 1930); the Minister / Fidelio (1933); King Mark / Tristan und Isolde (1933, 1934) and Baron Ochs (1929–1932 and 1933–1934).
In Munich during 1910 Mayr sang in the first performance of Mahler’s Symphony No. 8; and appeared as a guest at the Royal Opera House, London from 1911 to 1913, returning in 1924 and appearing there annually until 1931, often as Baron Ochs, but also as Figaro, Pogner, King Mark, Gurnemanz and Daland / Der fliegende Holländer.
Meanwhile Mayr had also sung with the Dresden Opera in 1919 and 1927 and with the Court (later State) opera, Munich, in 1915 and 1925; and made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in 1927 as Pogner. Here he later sang the Landgrave / Tannhäuser, King Henry / Lohengrin, Hunding / Die Walküre and of course Baron Ochs, continuing to appear at the Met until 1930.
The possessor of an exceptionally rich, dark, bass voice, Mayr was a superb actor, equally at home in tragedy and comedy; and was also active in concert and on the recital platform.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).