Lebendige VergangenheitKarl Erb was the illegitimate son of an assembly line worker. His childhood and adolescence were sad and poverty-striken. The after-effects of this destitute start to life as well as the stigma of his "dishonorable" origin (an aspect of considerable importance in the petit-bourgeois atmosphere of his Swabian home town) effected his later artistic life as well. Karl Erb was misanthropic, introverted and tended to inordinate thrift and self-sufficiency. These traits continued even when he had been awarded the title of "Kammersänger" of the Munich State Opera, he used to cycle to the opera house. The dire straits of his youth would also explain his almost fanatical love for his mother. His desire to compensate for the disappointments of his youth by enabling her to live a carefree existence in old age was fulfilled. After his failed marriage to the soprano Maria Ivogün, he and his mother withdrew to the idyllic tranquility of their house in Ravensburg. This inordinate love for his mother can be discerned in his rendition of the Schubert Lied "Vor meiner Wiege" - an interpretation unequalled in its tenderness and poignancy. Karl Erb originally intended to become a civil servant and for many years he worked in the public administrative sector. Due to his conscientiousness he was early appointed to the honorable post of treasurer of the Municipal Gas and Water Works. Nevertheless he frequently sang in choral associations and at song festivals also was also a chorister in small theatrical outings of his home town. One day the Stuttgart Opera made a guest appearance in Ravensburg and the opera chorus had to be augmented with local forces. Karl Erb was among those chosen and his bright, strong tenor voice caught the attention of the Intendant, Baron Putlitz After a thorough examination of the voice, Putlitz seriously advised him to start a vocal career. However, as Karl Erb was over thirty at the time he was loath to take this risky step. To give up the assiduously achieved "secure existence" seemed to him extremely foolhardy. Putlitz, however, did not give up. He engaged a correpetitor for him and a teacher for German pronunciation, whose task it was to try to eliminate the typical Swabian drawl in Erb's articulation (not wholly successfully, as it happened.) Problems started immediately. Already during the first singing lessons, pupil and teacher quarreled so vehemently that a continuation of the lessons was impossible. Erb was never again to take singing lessons and remains one of the few exemplary cases of a singing autodidact in vocal history. On June 14, 1907 the "singing civil servant" made his debut at the Stuttgart Opera. Putlitz had risked entrusting him with the role of Matthias in Kienzl 's "Evangelimann". The gamble paid off and Karl Erb now decided to pursue an operatic career. After further successes as Lohengrin, Faust and Walter von Stolzing, Erb accepted an engagement to appear at the Opera House in Lübeck. He remained there for three successful years, appearing in various opera and operetta parts, including: Manrico, Max, Froh, Florestan, Stradella, Duca in "Rigoletto", Turiddu, Hoffmann, Fenton, Alfred in "Fledermaus" and Bainkay in "Gypsy Baron". In the last year of his Lübeck engagement he added Raoul, Tamino, Almaviva, Belmonte, Siegfried ("Götterdämmerung") and Tannhäuser to his repertoire. From 1910 to 1912 he again appeared at the Stuttgart Opera - as a revered and multi-facetted member of the ensemble. In 1910 Erb was chosen to appear in a privately-sponsored performance of Hans Pfitzner's opera "Der arme Heinrich" at the Prinzregenten Theatre, Munich. The success of this portrayal resulted in his engagement at the Munich State Opera (after 1912). Hans Pfitzner was so impressed by Erb's performance that he entrusted him with the title role of his opera "Palestrina". The world premiere of this opera was on June 12, 1917. Pfitzner subsequently honored him as follows: "I deem it one of the rare fortunes of my artistic life that my greatest work found such an ideal protagonist, as you, my dear Karl Erb. Your name will forever be linked to this work of German art." At the end of his life the singer stated: "My fortune was overwhelming when I was allowed to sing this role." Under the artistic auspices of his friend and mentor, Bruno Walter, Erb worked again on his Mozart roles and achieved the highest level of perfection in this repertoire. Further outstanding performances during his time in Munich were the main roles in Hugo Wolf's "Der Corregidor", Schreker's "Die Gezeichneten" und "Der ferne Klang" as well as the Aristophanes opera "Die Vögel" by Braunfels. In 1914 he sang in the first Munich performance of Wagner's Parsifal. Karl Erb's repertoire was enormous and included roles of all categories and styles. Mention should be made of:.Ernesto, Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, Bacchus, Wilhelm Meister. In numerous performances he appeared together with Maria Ivogün, his wife at the time, with whom he also appeared in 1925 at a concert of the Salzburg Festival. Guest appearances took him to England, Belgium, Holland, Austria and Switzer land. After the departure of Bruno Walter, Erb left Munich and sang in Berlin. After a series of accidents he bade farewell to the stage in 1930. Already in 1924 he had first sung the Evangelist in Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" (under Bruno Walter, in Munich).