Biography

With more than 120 major roles, eight world premieres, and literally thousands of performances at the world’s leading opera houses under his belt, Peter Strummer stands at the pinnacle of America’s character bass-baritones. Never content to rest on his forty-six years of experience on the lyric stage, Mr. Strummer approaches each performance with an artist’s creative eye, bringing fresh perspective and nuance to his detailed musical and dramatic characterizations. He is fluent in seven languages and sings in many more, including a number of dialects. Unparalleled in artistry, sense of style, stage presence, experience, and charisma, with an unsurpassed reputation for artistic versatility, musical flexibility, and linguistic prowess, Peter Strummer represents the highest ideals of the operatic profession. 

Mr. Strummer’s memorable performances are frequently lauded in both the international and domestic press. Opera Canada recognized him as “a veteran basso steeped in the Italian buffo tradition, whose every move as Don Magnifico served to enhance the comic drive and pacing of the show.” Opera News praised his “warm, firm, agile” voice. The Denver Post summed up nicely: “Strummer is one of the most meticulous performers I know. His portrayals become highly individual, each formidably different whether as Bartolo or Don Magnifico, Beckmesser or Pasquale…”

Mr. Strummer’s many signature roles include Leporello (Don Giovanni), Don Alfonso (Cosí fan tutte), Don Magnifico (La Cenerentola), the title role in Don Pasquale, the Sacristan (Tosca), Benoit/Alcindoro (La bohème), Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Fra Melitone (La forza del destino), the Musiklehrer, (Ariadne auf Naxos), and of course, the doctors — Bartolo in both The Barber of Seville and Le nozze di Figaro, and Dulcamara (L’elisir d’amore). He has been heard in over twelve major symphonic works, including Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and Dvorak’s Stabat Mater with the Israeli Symphony. He commands over eight hours of lieder and other recital material.

His extensive career has taken him to the stages of The Metropolitan Opera (Beckmesser, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg; Dansker, Billy Budd); San Francisco Opera (Dr. Dulcamara; Dr. Bartolo and Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro and Bartolo inThe Barber of Seville; Benoit/Alcindoro; Bogdanovich, The Merry Widow);  Washington Opera (Fra Melitone, La forza del destino; Kezal, The Bartered Bride);  Teatro dell’Opera di Roma (Bottom, A Midsummer Night’s Dream); Canadian Opera Company (Bartolo, Sacristan, Leporello, Fra Melitone, Benoit/Alcindoro); and many others, including Teatro del la Zarzuela, Madrid, L’Opéra du Montréal, Seattle Opera, Dallas Opera, New York City Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New Orleans Opera, San Diego Opera, to name a few. 

Fifteen years of Mr. Strummer’s career were spent in German and Austrian opera houses, where in addition to opera roles, he amassed many performances of German and Viennese operetta. He has performed roles in every opera by Janaçek. He also spent three years as part of a special ensemble at Minnesota Opera, where he worked with famed director and acting coach Wesley Balk.

Mr. Strummer can be heard on many recordings and commercial broadcasts, including Benoit, La Bohème, with New York City Opera, Live From Lincoln Center; Fra Melitone, Forza del destino; Sacristan, Tosca,  CBC Television, Making of an Opera (DVD); Music Master, Ariadne auf Naxos, with Milwaukee’s Florentine Opera PBS Broadcast and Devilshoof, The Bohemian Girl, with Central City Opera (Voce Records). In addition, many of his performances have been broadcast in Europe and North America. 

Offstage, Mr. Strummer is a gourmet cook who loves to entertain, and an avid collector of historical recordings and opera films. He is the founder and Artistic Director of the three-year-old Rose Rock Opera Institute and for ten years served as the same with the Land of Enchantment Opera Institute. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma with his wife, the internationally known dramatic soprano, Linda Roark-Strummer, and their beloved Siamese cat, Attila.

Story
 My grandfather, Max Scheindel (the actor/director who inspired me) with my mother

My grandfather, Max Scheindel (the actor/director who inspired me) with my mother

I was born in Vienna, Austria, to Holocaust survivors. My maternal grandparents were in the theater. Max Scheindel, my grandfather, was a very famous actor/director in the golden age of operetta. He was friends with the most famous singers and actors of his time: Franz Lehár, Paul Abraham, Nico Dostal, Edmund Eysler, etc. He was friends with Richard Tauber, and discovered Joseph Schmidt. After WWII, he was appointed Intendant of Vienna’s Raimondteather, the home of the Wienervolksoper, after the building had been destroyed.

We were living in the Russian zone, of Vienna, after the war and my grandfather was afraid that it would end up, like Berlin. They emigrated to Canada. There, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he founded a Viennese Operetta Theater, a Yiddish theater, and was one of the founders of the Manitoba Theater Center. He also advised the restructuring of the New Stratford Festival. It was under these conditions that I grew up and watched my grandfather work. There was nothing else I ever wanted to do. Fortunately, my voice developed in such a way that I was able to fulfill my dreams. It was my destiny.

My grandfather is at the bottom on the floor. Right above him is the famous tenor, Richard Tauber.

I have had the good fortune to work with the best people in the business. I was double cast with the greats of the last buffo generation such as, Sesto Bruscantini, Paolo Montarsolo, Renato Capecchi, Ezio Flagello, Giuseppe Taddei, etc. What I learned from these greats, as well as wonderful directors, is that, comedy, comes out of serious situations. I believe that every comic character must be based in reality and humanity. I am not a fan of slapstick, and I refuse to drop my pants to get a laugh.  

Now, as a performer and teacher, I hope to foster the next generation. I want to inspire my younger colleagues to raise their standards, pass on the knowledge and experiences, that I have gathered. I want to be an inspiration and a model for my students and encourage them to be the best they can possibly be.

I must make a difference, and ultimately, change the world.