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Swiss opera singer Ernst Haefliger dies at 87

Ernst Haefliger, the Swiss opera singer renowned for his oratorio and lieder, died Saturday in the southeastern town of Davos, a Lucerne Festival spokeswoman.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Ernst Haefliger, the Swiss opera singer renowned for his oratorio and lieder, has died, a Lucerne Festival spokeswoman said Sunday. He was 87.

Haefliger died Saturday from acute heart failure in the southeastern town of Davos, said Barbara Higgs, spokeswoman for the yearly Lucerne music event.

He was the leading lyric tenor with the Deutsche Oper Berlin between 1952 and 1972, and sang all of Mozart’s tenor parts and performed as Hans in Smetana’s “Verkaufte Braut.”

Recordings with companies such as Columbia Records and the Deutsche Grammophon, where he registered numerous Mozart operas and Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” brought Haefliger several awards.

A regular guest at the festivals of Salzburg in Austria, Glyndebourne in Britain and Lucerne, Haefliger earned particular praise for his interpretation of the Evangelists in Bach’s Passions, with the German Bach choir of Munich directed by Karl Richter, according to an appraisal by the Lucerne Festival.

Haefliger was born July 6, 1919, in Davos. He studied singing and violin in Zurich before becoming an opera singer with the Zurich Operahouse, where he first gained international attention as Tiresias in the world premiere of Orff’s Oedipus.

He first performed in North America at the 1959 Vancouver Festival, and made numerous New York appearances during his career, including at Avery Fisher Hall with the New York Philharmonic, the Metropolitan Museum and Carnegie Hall.

He also taught for many years at the University of Music and Performing Arts Munich.

He is survived by a wife and three children.