Jan Kiepura

Jan Kiepura, Singer. A portrait in stage costume. 1935
Jan Kiepura, Singer. A portrait in stage costume. 1935

“Ob blond, ob braun, ich liebe alle Frau'n!” (“Blondes, brunettes, I love all women”) When this hit song conquered the streets and courtyards of Germany in 1935 Jan Kiepura was at the peak of a worldwide career. Audiences poured into German cinemas on his account alone. 

Jan Wiktor Kiepura was born in 1902 in Sosnowiec, a town that was a part of the Tsarist empire in Russia at the time, but today belongs to Poland. He had a Catholic father (Fanciszek) and a Jewish mother (Miriam). His childhood was spent in less affluent surroundings, mainly between school and work in the family bakery. His musical talent was clear from the start because he loved to sing a lot at home and in school. His early political commitment was also clear: he was a member of the “Polish Military Organisation” (Polska Organizacja Wojskowa / POW) and took part in the First and Second Silesian Uprisings (I i II Powstanie Śląskie). After a lot of hard work Jan Kiepura passed his A-levels in 1921 and immediately began a course in law at Warsaw University, something which corresponded with the wishes of his parents. That said, he failed to complete his studies. At the same time he took lessons in singing from Władysław Brzeziński and Tadeusz Leliwa, something that was definitely against the wishes of his parents. Four years later he began appearing on stage in various Polish towns and cities, including Lwów, Poznań and Warsaw. In 1926 he left Poland for Vienna to embark on an international career. Here, in September 1926 he made a triumphant debut in Puccini’s Tosca in the role of Cavaradossi. Henceforth Jan Kiepura began to conquer the opera world as a leading tenor.

The next great break in his career was in 1930 when he filmed “The Singing City” under the direction of Carmine Gallone. The film was shot in three languages: German, French and English. This was usual at the time. But what was not so usual was the fact that Jan Kiepura sang in all other languages in his films. The film was a triumph and from now on Jan Kiepura dedicated himself to the new “talking movie” medium, without however completely neglecting the stage. He continued to sing in recitals and operas and often appeared in benefit galas. He was also known for his “spontaneous” recitals in front of hotels and on car roofs, everywhere where he was awaited by his huge number of fans.

Jan Kiepura shot more films in Germany in the 1930s. They not only bear witness to his talent as a singer and actor but are still a part of the canon of musical film history. These include “Das Lied einer Nacht” (1932, a German production directed by Anatole Litvak, with additional English and French versions), “Ein Lied für dich” (1933, a German/French production directed by Joe May and Henri-Georges Clouzot, in German and French versions), “Mein Herz ruft nach Dir” (1934, a German production directed by Carmine Gallone, with additional French and English versions), “Ich liebe alle Frauen” (1935, a German/French production directed by Carl Lamac, in German and French versions), “Im Sonnenschein” (1936, a German production directed by Carmine Gallone), and “Zauber der Bohème” (1937, an Austrian production directed by Géza von Bolváry). Interestingly enough, in almost all his films Jan Kiepura sang one song in Polish. 

Mediathek
  • The singer Jan Kiepura at a concert in his honour organised by the German/Polish Institute in the Berlin “Zoologischer Garten” in June 1936.

    The singer Jan Kiepura at a concert, 1936

    The singer Jan Kiepura at a concert in his honour organised by the German/Polish Institute in the Berlin “Zoologischer Garten” in June 1936.
  • Jan Kiepura on stage during the concert in the Marmorsaal of the Berlin Zoologischer Garten.

    Jan Kiepura on stage

    Jan Kiepura on stage during the concert in the Marmorsaal of the Berlin Zoologischer Garten.
  • Jan Kiepura at a concert in the Marmorsaal in the Berliner Zoo on 25th February 1935 to mark the opening of the German/Polish Institute in the Lessing College.

    Jan Kiepura at a concert, 1935

    Jan Kiepura at a concert in the Marmorsaal in the Berliner Zoo on 25th February 1935 to mark the opening of the German/Polish Institute in the Lessing College.
  • Jan Kiepura is congratulated by the Reich Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, after his successful concert on 25th February 1935 to mark the opening of the German/Polish Institute at the Lessing College in Berlin.

    Jan Kiepura is congratulated by the Reich Minister for Propaganda

    Jan Kiepura is congratulated by the Reich Minister for Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, 1935.
  • Jan Kiepura nimmt Glückwünsche von der Frau des Reichsarbeitsministers Seldte nach einem Festkonzert zu Ehren des polnischen Sängers anlässlich der Eröffnung des Deutsch-Polnischen Instituts in Berlin entgegen.

    Jan Kiepura nimmt Glückwünsche entgegen, 1936

    Jan Kiepura nimmt Glückwünsche von der Frau des Reichsarbeitsministers Seldte nach einem Festkonzert zu Ehren des polnischen Sängers anlässlich der Eröffnung des Deutsch-Polnischen Instituts in Berlin...
  • Jan Kiepura und seine Ehefrau die Sängerin und Schauspielerin Martha Eggerth bei den Berliner Filmfestspielen im Jahre 1952.

    Jan Kiepura und seine Ehefrau Martha Eggerth, 1952

    Jan Kiepura und seine Ehefrau die Sängerin und Schauspielerin Martha Eggerth bei den Berliner Filmfestspielen im Jahre 1952.
  • Audiodatei

    Jan Kiepura - Hörspiel von "COSMO Radio po polsku"

    In Zusammenarbeit mit "COSMO Radio po polsku" präsentieren wir Hörspiele zu ausgewählten Themen unseres Portals.