How are classical opera singers reviewed?

The singer

Lukas Hartmann, The Singer, Diogenes 2019, ISBN 978-3-257-07072-1

The Swiss writer Lukas Hartmann has shown himself to be a true master of the historical novel in many earlier books. Always well researched, it tells exciting and entertaining historical events, mostly about people who really lived.

This is how he did it with the material and the subject of his new novel, again published by Diogenes in Zurich. In the appendix he documents in detail which sources he used and which other books about his main character inspired him. A process that one would sometimes wish for in other novels with historical material.

"The Singer" is a novel about the lyrical tenor Joseph ... more

Lukas Hartmann, The Singer, Diogenes 2019, ISBN 978-3-257-07072-1

The Swiss writer Lukas Hartmann has shown himself to be a true master of the historical novel in many earlier books. Always well researched, it tells exciting and entertaining historical events, mostly about people who really lived.

This is how he did it with the material and the subject of his new novel, again published by Diogenes in Zurich. In the appendix he documents in detail which sources he used and which other books about his main character inspired him. A process that one would sometimes wish for in other novels with historical material.

“The Singer” is a novel about the lyrical tenor Joseph Schmidt, who was born as the son of Orthodox Jews in Chernivtsi and attracted attention as a child as a singer in the synagogue. Soon, word of his great talent quickly got around all over the world, his voice fills large concert halls and he conquers an audience of millions in Germany, Europe and even in America, similar to only Caruso or his friend Richard Tauber at that time. Never averse to the opposite sex, his relationships with women were as diverse as his pieces, which he recorded on records at an early age and which spread his fame beyond the big stages, mainly in Europe.
In 1942, in which the novel, which is peppered with many retrospectives, takes place, Joseph Schmidt ended up on a long escape from the Nazis in southern France.

Lukas Hartmann tells how Joseph Schmidt, like thousands of other Jews, is sick and totally exhausted (later it turns out that not only can he no longer use his voice, but is seriously ill with his heart) on the Swiss border, which was already completely closed in 1942 has been made (the arguments of the government and of large parts of the population, which he describes again and again, seem strangely topical) until he gets to the other side of Lake Geneva with the help of a tug and his last money. There some upright Swiss people will help him and get him out of the camp, in which he has to endure under terrible conditions with hundreds of other Jews (among other things, he meets the philosopher Manes Sperber) and first in a hospital and a few days later, because the anti-Jewish doctor does not help him to put him in an inn.

But everything is in vain. The great and long-time very wealthy singer Joseph Schmidt dies of heart failure and is buried in a nearby Jewish cemetery. Today memorial plaques remind that he spent the last weeks of his life there.

A great literary homage to a long forgotten artist.


Refers to the following edition: Linen-bound book