Jan Kiepura

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Jan Kiepura, photograph (1932/33) by Wanda von Debschitz-Kunowski
Jan Kiepura in Lyon (1932).
Jan Kiepura monument in Krynica-Zdrój
The Eggerth-Kiepura couple (1954)

January Wiktor Kiepura , even Jean Kiepura , (May 3 . Jul / 16th May  1902 greg. In Sosnowiec , Russian Empire ; † 15. August 1966 in Harrison , New York ) was a Polish-American opera singer ( tenor ) and actor . Along with Richard Tauber and Joseph Schmidt, he was not only one of the most popular “Three Tenors” of the 1930s, but also one of the most successful singer-actors in European film of that time.


Jan Kiepura was born the son of a Catholic master baker and a Jewish mother. After auditioning for the famous opera singer Wacław Brzeziński (1878–1955) from the Warsaw Opera , he began to study law in 1922 with the tenor Tadeusz Leliwa (1875–1929) - against the will of his parents.

He made his stage debut in 1924 in Charles Gounod's Faust in Lemberg (Lwów). In the same year Kiepura won a singing competition, received the title “King of the Polish Tenors” and a first engagement at the Warsaw Opera. The sensational breakthrough came on February 11, 1925, when Kiepura stepped in for a tenor as Faust . After an initial disappointment, the audience celebrated him with a standing ovation at the end . A year later, Franz Schalk brought him to the Vienna State Opera , where on September 21 he shone alongside opera diva Maria Jeritza as Cavaradossi in Tosca . With his triumphant appearance as Kalaf in Giacomo Puccini's Turandot on October 15, he became the undisputed darling of the Viennese opera. On October 7, 1927, he took on the male lead in Erich Wolfgang Korngold's opera Das Wunder der Heliane with Lotte Lehmann as a partner. In the following years he celebrated one triumph after another: in the leading roles of Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto , Giacomo Puccini's La Bohème , Tosca , Turandot , Manon Lescaut , Jules Massenet's Werther ; in Berlin, at the Paris Opera , in London, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago and at La Scala in Milan , where he launched another novelty in 1929: Le Preciose by the Italian composer Felice Lattuada (1882–1962).

In 1930 Kiepura was a world star of opera when he was enthusiastically celebrated as "the new Caruso " by millions of audiences in the cinema with his first sound film The Singing City . More than a dozen films followed by 1937, mostly for the film company Cine-Allianz , in which he always played the leading role in the French and English versions. Kiepura hits on Odeon / Parlophone records appeared in German, English, French, Italian, Polish and went around the world, such as Tonight or Never ( Mischa Spoliansky ), Ninon ( Walter Jurmann ), whether blond or brown, I love all women ( Robert Stolz ). In My Heart Always Calls for You (1934), his partner was the Hungarian singer-actress Marta Eggerth , whom he married on October 31, 1936 in Katowice . The marriage has two children: Jan Kiepura jun. (born 1944) and Marjan Kiepura (born 1950).

In the mid-1930s, the two were Europe's most popular artist couple. In the Polish winter sports resort of Krynica-Zdrój, they owned the Hotel Patria , which soon became a popular meeting place for European society. For example, the future Queen Juliana of the Netherlands spent some time on her honeymoon at the Hotel Patria .

Kiepura and Eggerth celebrated their greatest mutual triumph with the film Zauber der Bohème , which was filmed in Austria in 1937. It was Kiepura's last film before the start of the Second World War . The Polish patriot emigrated to America with his wife Marta Eggerth, where Kiepura made his sensational debut at the Met on February 10, 1938 . Kiepura and Eggerth still had their homes in Krynica and Paris, where they were surprised by the beginning of the war. They emigrated to the USA, which became their second home. The year 1943 marked the beginning of Kiepura's "third career" as a triumphant operetta tenor at the side of his wife. Together they appeared more than 2000 times in Franz Lehár's Merry Widow . First on Broadway in a spectacular production by George Balanchine , with which they also toured nationwide, in English, French, Italian and even in Polish in Chicago.

After the war they again celebrated great successes on the operetta stages of Europe. A colorful film adaptation of The Land of Smiles in 1952 marked the end of Kiepura's film work. In the fall of 1958 he - now a US citizen - gave several acclaimed concerts in Poland. It was the first reunion with his homeland since the end of the Second World War.

Between 1955 and 1957 he and his wife appeared in several productions of The Merry Widow , such as at the London Palace Theater and the New York City Center Theater, as well as in Cologne and Berlin in 1965. In the USA and Canada they performed repeatedly in concerts until shortly before Kiepura's sudden death.

Jan Kiepura died of a heart attack in the USA at the age of 64. He is buried in the Powązki Cemetery in Warsaw .


  • Jan Kiepura Vol 1. Pearl, catalog # GEMM CD 9976 (2006).
  • Jan Kiepura Vol 2. My Song For You. (Photographs 1931–1955). Pearl, catalog # GEMM CD 9079 (1994).
  • Jan Kiepura. Marianne Melody CD (2008).
  • Jan Kiepura. Living past. Preiser CD (1997).
  • Jan Kiepura: Whether blond or brown, I love all women . Membrane CD (2004).
  • Jan Kiepura: Portrait - Nostalgic Stars. Flex Media CD (2007)
  • Marta Eggerth, Jan Kiepura: The stars of stage and film. EMI CDM 7 64660 2 (1992)
  • Jan Kiepura, Marian Nowakowski: Historical Recordings from 1927-42 . Hamburg Archive for Singing Art. CD Audio, EAN: 0883629243474 (2008).
  • Marta Eggerth, Jan Kiepura: The real dream couple. Documents 600049 (3 CDs, 2013)


  • 1926: O czem się nie myśli - Director: Edward Puchalski
  • 1930: The Singing City - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1931: City of Song (English version of The Singing City ) - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1932: Tell me Tonight - Director: Anatole Litvak
  • 1932: The song of one night (German version of Tell me Tonight ) - Director: Anatole Litvak
  • 1933: Tout pour l'amour - Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
  • 1933: A Song for You - Director: Joe May
  • 1934: Mon cœur t'appelle - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1934: My heart calls for you - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1934: My Heart is Calling (English version of Mein Herz is calling for you )
  • 1935: My Song for You - Directed by Maurice Elvey
  • 1935: I love all women - Director: Carl Lamac
  • 1935: J'aime toutes les Femmes (French version of I love all women )
  • 1936: Give us this night - Director: Alexander Hall
  • 1936: Opernring - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1937: The Magic of Bohème ( La Bohème -Adaption) - directed by Géza von Bolváry
  • 1947: Addio Mimi ( La Bohème -Adaption) - Director: Carmine Gallone
  • 1948: Valse Brilliant - Director: Jean Boyer
  • 1952: The Land of Smiles - Director: Hans Deppe

useful information

The memory of Jan Kiepura is particularly cherished in his former place of residence Krynica-Zdrój . The Jan Kiepura Summer Festival, which took place for the 51st time in 2017 and offers around two weeks of various concerts with a total of around 500 participants, is performed there in summer. In the final gala concert, well-known Polish opera singers also regularly perform arias or songs that Jan Kiepura once sang.

The Austrian music expert Marcel Prawy , who died in 2003 and was Kiepura's private secretary for many years, was a great expert on the life and work of Jan Kiepura .

As part of the Elbland Festival Wittenberge in Brandenburg , the International Singing Competition for Operetta - Jan Kiepura in honor of the tenor took place twice . His widow Marta Eggerth-Kiepura took over the patronage .

The EuroNight Jan Kiepura in Frankfurt (Main) Hbf

The PKP (Polish State Railways) EuroNight train, which was discontinued in 2016, was named after Jan Kiepura with through coaches to Minsk and Moscow between Amsterdam and Warsaw.


Web links

Commons : Jan Kiepura  - collection of images, videos and audio files