Otakar Kraus

The Czech-born but later naturalised British baritone Otakar Kraus (1909–1980) was born in Prague where he studied with Konrad Wallerstein before moving to Fernando Carpi in Milan. Making his début as Amonasro in Brno in 1935, he was a member of the Bratislava Opera from 1936 to 1939. With the outbreak of the Second World War Kraus eventually came to Britain and joined the touring Carl Rosa Company in 1940. As a member of the newly formed English Opera Group in 1946, he created Tarquinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at Glyndebourne, later taking the rôle of the Vicar in Albert Herring, and Lockit in Britten’s realisation of The Beggar’s Opera. He joined Netherlands Opera for the 1950-51 season in addition to creating the rôle of Nick Shadow in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress in Venice later that year. This was followed by 22 years as a member of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. There he sang most of the principal baritone parts in addition to creating Diomede in Walton’s Troilus and Cressida in 1954 and King Fisher in Tippett’s The Midsummer Marriage the following year. He sang Alberich in the Ring at Bayreuth between 1960 and 1962. Whilst not endowed with the greatest of voices, Kraus was a superb singing actor who was greatly admired for his make-up skills. He retired in 1973 to teach.