The Way of the Word

30. November 2010

RIP Peter Hofmann

Peter Hofmann was born on August 22, 1944, in Marienbad (Germany) and died on November 29, 2010 in Selb (Germany) at the age of 66, apparently of pneumonia.

Hofmann joined a rock band as a singer and bass player at the age of 16. Before that, he was an exceptional athlete, and during his time as a Bundeswehr conscript he served as a paratrooper. He used the money he got when he retired from the Bundeswehr to finance his training as a singer at the Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe. He gave his debut as an opera singer (he was a tenor) in Lübeck in 1972 as Tamino in Die Zauberflöte. His breakthrough came in 1976, when he sang the role of Siegmund at the Bayreuther Festspiele. He sang there for 14 years. Afterwards, he sort of specialized in singing Wagner operas. His voice started to fail him in 1990, and he ended his career as an opera singer.

Parallel to opera, he performed as a rock singer and published several very successful albums. After retiring from opera, he joined the cast of Hamburg’s stage of The Phantom of the Opera, where he sang the title role during 300 performances. In 1997, he played Old Firehand in the Bad Segeberg performance of Winnetou and Old Firehand.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1994, but managed to conceal it with self-discipline and medication. He finally revealed his disease in 1999, and ended his career with his Christmas tour in 2000. After that, he suffered a fairly rapid and severe physical decline.  At the end, he was unable to speak, to eat without assistance, and he was bound to a wheelchair.

Looking at the above, his death was probably a kindness. His image at least was that of a very physical and athletic person, and for someone like that being so physically decreipt must have been the proverbial fate worse than death.

I still remember when I first heard him. It was when his debut rock album, Rock Classics, came out. I had no idea who he was, I just heard a song from the album on the radio and thought, “This guy will fail in the business. Because he can actually sing.” I found out afterwards that he was actually already a famous opera singer who was, let’s say, slumming in popular music. I loved his interpretations of those rock songs (and C&W), and his own songs as well. I have several of his albums, and I’m actually listening to one of them as I type this.

He made opera cool.


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