For Richard Wagner, Ludwig Schnorr von Carolsfeld must have seemed the answer to a maiden’s prayer. For years, the operatic revolutionary had struggled to find a singer capable of encompassing both the vocal and dramatic demands of his taxing tenor leads. Arriving in Dresden for the gruelling six-hour premiere of Rienzi, the composer was initially more than happy with Josef Tichatschek, the affable huntin’ and shootin’ Bohemian tenor who scored a major career triumph in the lead role. Alas,...

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