Adler, Kurt Herbert

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Biographical Information

Kurt Herbert Adler was born to Ernst and Ida (Bauer) Adler on April 2, 1905 in Vienna, Austria. The son of a textile manufacturer, he attended preparatory schools in Vienna, and was educated at the Vienna Academy of Music (1922-1926), the Vienna Conservatory of Music, and the University of Vienna (1923-1927). Adler made his debut in 1925 as an orchestral conductor at the Vienna theaters managed by Max Reinhardt, noted European theatrical producer. He continued in that capacity until 1934, at the same time acting as a coach, accompanist, chorus director, and instructor. From 1934 to 1937, he conducted at opera houses in Germany, Italy, and Czechoslovakia. He conducted the Vienna Volksoper for two years, and also made appearances as leader of the Vienna Concert Orchestra. Adler assisted Arturo Toscanini at the 1936 and 1937 Salzburg Festivals, and during the summers served as an instructor at the Salzburg Mozarteum.

Adler emigrated to the U.S. in 1938, initially for an engagement at the Chicago Opera; he became a U.S. citizen in 1941. He remained as conductor of the Chicago Opera Company for four years, and also led summer symphony concerts. He served as guest conductor of the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in 1942, and during 1945 was a member of the New Opera Company, which performed in New York.

In 1943, Adler joined the staff of the San Francisco Opera, which was founded in 1923 by his predecessor, Gaetano Merola. Adler began as chorus master (1943-1944), at first commuting from New York, then served as chorus director from 1944 to 1947. He was appointed artistic director in 1953, and named general director in 1956. He organized subsidiary organizations in San Francisco to stage experimental works, to perform in schools and other unconventional opera venues, and to train young singers. More than 300 singers, conductors, directors, and designers made their American debuts with the San Francisco Opera under Mr. Adler's auspices. Adler also conducted the Young People's Concerts of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, and beginning in 1949, was a lecturer in music at the University of California, Berkeley, and guest conductor of their symphony orchestra, as well as serving as artistic advisor to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Adler's work has received citations from the governments of Italy, Germany, Austria, Russia, France, and England. In 1957, he received the Star of Solidarity from the Italian government "for distinguished service in promoting Italian music and art." In 1958, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Music from the University of the Pacific in Stockton for "distinguished leadership in the advancement of music." Following his retirement on December 31, 1981, Adler was named general director emeritus, and continued to be a guest conductor in Europe, Asia, China and throughout North America. In addition to serving on the National Council of the Arts, Adler served on numerous other boards and professional organizations, and is the only lifelong trustee of the National Opera Institute.

Adler's 1940 marriage to Dianthe Warfel of Plainfield, Illinois produced two children, Kristin Dianthe and Ronald Huntington. They divorced in 1963, and he married Nancy Goodhue Miller of San Francisco in August 1965. They had two children, Sabrina Sif (b. 1980), and Curtis Roman (b. 1983). Kurt Herbert Adler died of a heart attack at his home in Ross, Calif., on February 9, 1988.

From the guide to the Kurt Herbert Adler papers, 1921-1990, bulk 1954-1987, (The Bancroft Library)

Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Adler, Nancy Miller person
associatedWith Adler, Nancy Miller. person
associatedWith Albanese, Licia person
associatedWith Albanese, Licia. person
associatedWith Bauer-Ecsy, Leni. person
associatedWith Boucher, Anthony, 1911-1968 person
associatedWith Cooper, Betty Miller, person
associatedWith Enters, Angna, 1897-1989. person
associatedWith Heimberg, Tom, person
correspondedWith Lopatnikoff, Nikolai, 1903-1976 person
associatedWith Merola, Gaetano. person
associatedWith Merola Opera Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Monteaux, Pierre, 1875-1964. person
associatedWith Nowinski, Ira. person
associatedWith Online Archive of California. corporateBody
associatedWith Pavarotti, Luciano. person
associatedWith Price, Leontyne. person
associatedWith San Francisco Opera corporateBody
associatedWith San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. corporateBody
associatedWith Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950 person
associatedWith Sotomayor, Antonio, 1904- person
associatedWith Stern Grove Festival Association. corporateBody
associatedWith Toscanini, Arturo, 1867-1957. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
California--San Francisco
California--San Francisco Bay Area


Birth 1905-04-02

Death 1988-02-09








Ark ID: w6c85nvz

SNAC ID: 62101377