Klemperer, Otto

(1885-1973)
   conductor; director of Berlin's* Kroll Opera. Born of Jewish parentage in Breslau (now Wroclaw), he grew up in Hamburg, where he studied piano. In 1901 he began formal training, first at Frankfurt's Hoch Conservatory and then, during 1902-1905, in Berlin. Engaged at the last moment in 1906, he made his debut at the Neues Theater for Max Reinhardt's* production of Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld. On Mah-ler s recommendation he became chorus master in 1907 and later conductor of the German State Theater in Prague. He worked with the Hamburg Opera in 1910-1912 and was chorus master in Barmen and Strassburg (1914-1917). He was music director of the Cologne Opera for seven years and filled the same post in Wiesbaden during 1924-1927. Out of genuine conviction, he converted to Catholicism while in Cologne.
   Despite a manic-depressive disorder that often strained his relationship with supporters, Klemperer emerged as one of Germany s leading conductors. Be-cause of his sympathy for modern music,* he declined the post of music director at Berlin s conservative Staatsoper in 1923. But when Carl Becker,* Prussia s* Cultural Minister, created a branch of the Staatsoper to perform new and recent works, Klemperer s selection as director was natural. In 1927 he began his celebrated years as music director of the Staatsoper am Platz der Republik, commonly known as the Krolloper. Although he performed such contemporaries as Hindemith,* Stravinsky, and Schoenberg,* his renditions of Mozart operas were famous.
   By emulating the Republic, the Kroll Opera was soon drawn into the contro-versies that destroyed the regime. Economic problems and pressure from the Right induced the opera s closure in July 1931 after only four seasons. When Klemperer conducted Tannhauser on 13 February 1933 at the Staatsoper,a performance commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Wagner's death, it was his last appearance in Germany until after World War II. Although he naively believed that racial persecution in Nazi Germany could be ended by baptizing all the Jews,* he emigrated in April 1933 and eventually became conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
   REFERENCES:Heyworth, Otto Klemperer; NDB, vol. 12; New Grove, vol. 10.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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