Peter Anders abandoned a career as an auditor to study singing at the Berlin High School for Music, firstly with Ernst Grenzebach and later with Lula Mysz-Gmeiner, whose daughter Susanne (herself a singer) he subsequently married. His first success came in 1931 when, still singing under his actual name of Emil Anders, he appeared in Max Reinhardt’s production of Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène in Berlin. Anders made his formal operatic debut in 1932 in Heidelberg as Jacquino in Fidelio and spent much of the 1930s working his way up the operatic ladder in Germany: he was at Darmstadt from 1933 to 1935 (changing his name to Peter Anders in 1934), Cologne from 1935 to 1936, Hanover from 1937 to 1938 and Munich from 1938 to 1940.
He sang in the first performance of Richard Strauss’s opera Friedenstag at Munich in 1938, while between 1940 and 1948 he was a valued member of the Berlin State Opera. Here he took part in several first performances, including Fried Walter’s Andreas Wolfius (1940) and Othmar Schoeck’s Das Schloss Dürande (1943). During this period Anders also sang at the Salzburg Festival, as Tamino / Die Zauberflöte in 1941 and during the following year in a performance of the Verdi Requiem at Salzburg as well as in the notorious performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 given in Berlin to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday and conducted by Wilhelm Furtwängler, which was recorded and filmed in Paris. His numerous roles at this time included Alfredo / La traviata, Belmonte / Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Don José / Carmen, Ernesto / Don Pasquale, Hans / The Bartered Bride, Lionel / Martha, Hoffmann / Les Contes d’Hoffmann, the king’s son in Humperdinck’s Königskinder and Leukippos / Daphne. His daughter Sylvia, who made a career as an actress and singer, was born in 1943.
In 1948 Anders moved to the Hamburg State Opera, appearing in addition at Düsseldorf and as a guest at the City Opera of Berlin, as well as in Stuttgart and Vienna. He now moved to heavier roles: at Hamburg he sang Radamès / Aida in 1949, followed by Otello / Otello (Verdi) and Walther / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 1950 and Siegmund / Die Walküre in 1953. Anders appeared with the Glyndebourne Festival Company at the Edinburgh Festival in 1950 as Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos under Sir Thomas Beecham – an incandescent performance – and returned to work with Beecham during the following year as Walther at Covent Garden. When the Hamburg State Opera visited the Edinburgh Festival in 1952, he repeated this role and also sang Max / Der Freischütz and Florestan / Fidelio. He sang as a guest in Holland and Belgium and between 1948 and 1951 at the San Carlo Opera in Naples. In addition to his work in the opera house Anders was also active as a lieder singer and in concert performances. He died in a motor accident on 4 September 1954, having given what was to be his last concert six days earlier at Pletten in Westphalia.
Anders possessed a tenor voice of high quality, which was married to a firm technique and an unfailing sense of music taste. Throughout his career he was a prolific broadcaster and made numerous commercial records, the repertoire of which was very wide, embracing both opera and operetta, so that he became extremely well known and popular before, during and after World War II. A very large number of his German and other radio broadcasts has been released on both LP and CD, in addition to reissues of his commercial studio recordings, thus enabling his art to be encountered both in recordings of complete operas and in numerous excerpts. Among the former the most notable are his complete recordings of Daphne, Königskinder, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Lohengrin and Martha. Anders’s infectious sense of humour, reputedly used to good effect in clashes with Beecham when he addressed him fearlessly as ‘Sir Tommy’ during rehearsals at Covent Garden, is very evident in his operetta recordings. These include complete accounts of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, Die Zigeunerbaron and Eine Nacht in Venedig as well as a vast number of individual items, covering the complete repertoire of both the golden and silver ages of operetta. Throughout, Anders’s vocal refinement and sure sense of style are fully evident.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).