The Cyclopædia of American Biography/Conried, Heinrich

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The Cyclopædia of American Biography  (1918) 
James E. Homans, editor
Conried, Heinrich

CONRIED, Heinrich, actor and theatrical manager, b. in Beilitz, Austria, 13 Sept., 1855; d. in Meran, Austrian Tyrol, 27 April, 1909, son of Joseph and Bertha Conried. He attended the Oberrealschule at Vienna and learned the weaver's trade, but a determination to follow a stage career soon led him to abandon it. He first appeared as an actor at the Hoftheater in Vienna in 1873, and thereafter rapidly advanced in the profession. Coming to America in 1878, he became stage manager in the Germania Theater, New York. He also appeared in character parts, and made a tour of the German theaters throughout the United States. Successively he became identified with the Casino in New York and the Conried Opera Company, which toured, with success, through many large cities. In 1892 he became manager of the Irving Place Theater in New York, and there inaugurated a series of dramatic performances on a high artistic plane, and along the lines of the great German playhouses. He introduced as “guests” such actors as Kainz, Sonnenthal, Possart, and Agnes Sorna; staged most of the great German classics, including Schiller's “Wallenstein” and Goethe's “Faust,” as well as a number of successful novelties. His fame as a manager of high artistic ideals was widespread, and when, in 1903, Maurice Grau retired from the management of the Metropolitan Opera House, there was a real public demand, voiced in the leading metropolitan newspapers, for his services as Grau's successor. Accordingly, he took the reins in the season of 1903-04, and at once introduced a new order of things. German opera, especially Wagner, once more came into its own, his greatest triumph being the first performance of “Parsifal,” outside of Bayreuth, accomplished against the wishes of, and after a legal contest with, Frau Cosima Wagner. Under his direction, also, “Die Meistersinger” received a new and magnificent staging, as well as the entire “Ring des Nibelungen” cycle. Humperdinck's “Hansel and Gretel,” Gounod's “Queen of Sheba,” Weber's “Freischütz,” and Beethoven's “Fidelio” were revived, and Puccini's “Madam Butterfly” and Richard Strauss' “Salome” had their first American productions. Mr. Conried gave special attention to the orchestra, which under the leadership of such men as Felix Mottl, Gustav Mahler, and Alfred Hertz, attained to a high degree of artistic perfection, and to magnificent and realistic stage settings and lighting effects. Mr. Conried introduced to the American public such singers as Lina Cavaliori, Geraldine Farrar, Olive Fremstad, Edyth Walker, Aloys Burgstaller, Carl Burriam, Enrico Caruso, and Otto Goritz, and gave an opportunity to many young American artists to enter upon an operatic career. Among the latter was Marie Rappold, until then an unknown singer in a Brooklyn church. He was also instrumental in establishing the Metropolitan Opera School, in furtherance of his plan to develop American talent. Ultimately, his work, though deeply appreciated by the general public, was hampered by lack of sympathy on the part of the directors. The performance of “Salome,” for example, he was enjoined from repeating, because of moral objections, which meant a great financial loss. His health gave way under the continuous strain, and he resigned his post, 1 May, 1908, soon afterward leaving for Europe in an unsuccessful attempt to recuperate. After his death a great tribute was paid to Mr. Conried in the form of funeral services in the Metropolitan Opera House. During his career as a dramatic manager he lectured on the drama at Columbia, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania, and at Harvard he produced Goethe's “Iphigenie,” for the benefit of the Germanic Museum. He received decorations from the emperors of Germany and Austria. Mr. Conried married in 1884, Gusta Spurling, of New York, and had one son.