Celebrated German opera singer and conductor Peter Schreier dies at 84

Celebrated German opera singer and conductor Peter Schreier dies at 84
Peter Schreier performing as Tamino in 'The Magic Flute' at the Staatsoper Berlin in 1972 (Getty Images)

One of Germany's finest opera singers and conductors of the 20th century, Peter Schreier, sadly passed away on Christmas Day in the city of Dresden after a long period of illness, according to his secretary. "His heart was too weak. I held his hand during his final hours," his wife Renate told reporters. His family had initially requested privacy in their time of mourning. Schreier was 84 years old at the time of his death and accolades and homages have been pouring in from fans and the arts community.

Known for his incredibly intense and expressive vocal renditions, Schreier made his name in the formerly communist region of East Germany and was celebrated as one of its finest and talented exports. He performed for 25 consecutive seasons at the Salzburg Festival and performed everything from Wagner to Beethoven at all the major opera houses, including his favorite opera, Hans Pfitzner’s 'Palestrina'. He also received a lot of praise for his regularly reprised role as Tamino in Mozart's 'Magic Flute' and even sang at the legendary Bayreuth Festival in 1966.  

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In the year 2000, Schreier quit the opera stage in Berlin due to stress-related concerns. He still continued to occasionally perform oratorio singing and German Lieder, as well as some conductor and tutor appointments, in spite of reportedly suffering from diabetes, and an ailing back and heart. His last concert stage appearance was a 2005 performance of Bach's 'Christmas Oratorio' in Prague, where he both conducted and also sang the role of the Evangelist.

As one of the foremost stars of the former German Democratic Republic, he was often afforded rarely-sanctioned travel privileges, allegedly without ever having to become a member of the East German Communist Party — usually a necessity for East Germans who wanted to travel freely. Despite receiving offers to move to the west side of Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he admitted, "I would be missing something if I couldn't live in Dresden." After his retirement, he told the media that he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife Renate - "I've really sung enough and would just like to enjoy a few more peaceful years now."

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One of Schreier's most famous quotes was "A day without music is a wasted day," and we're truly privileged that the tenor followed that maxim to the fullest. He was a once-in-a-generation talent who will be sorely missed.  

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