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Obituary: Peter Hofmann

Peter Hofmann, rock and opera singer. Born: 22 August, 1944, in Marianske Lazne (then called Marienbad) Czech Republic. Died: 30 November, 2010, in Bavaria, aged 66.

Peter Hofmann was a rock singer turned opera singer turned pop singer who sang at some of the most famous opera houses but who was known as much for his staggering good looks as for his voice.

He died from pneumonia, but had also been ill with Parkinson's disease for more than a decade.

A familiar presence on international opera stages in the 1970s and 1980s, Hofmann was most closely associated with the heldentenor parts of Wagner: the title roles in Lohengrin and Parsifal, Siegmund in Die Walkre, Tristan in Tristan und Isolde and Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nrnberg.

During this period, he performed regularly at the Bayreuth Festival, the annual presentation of Wagner's operas in Bavaria. He also sang 29 times at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (starting with a Lohengrin in 1980 and ending with a Walkre in 1988), and at Covent Garden and the San Francisco Opera.

Critics praised his nimble acting, sensitive phrasing and pleasant if less-than-powerful voice. Most of all, however, they repeatedly praised his appearance - svelte, strapping, square-jawed and blond - which cut through the opera world like a lightning bolt in an era when singers tended toward the mountainous, the immovable and the uncomely.

"This Siegmund looked the image of blond German godliness, which was no surprise," one reviewer wrote. "Mr Hofmann has always been as handsome a tenor as you would wish to see." From another review: Peter Hofmann "gives ground to no Parsifal in recent history in the matter of physique and blond handsomeness".

By the mid-1980s, as critics noted, Hofmann's voice had begun to fray. Before long he left opera for musical theatre; in the early 1990s, he appeared 300 times in the title role of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera in Hamburg.

He also toured Europe performing Elvis Presley songs, but retired in 1999, after his Parkinson's was diagnosed.

As a young man, Hoffman sang with a rock band and later studied classical singing. He made his operatic debut in 1972.

 
 
 

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