A career as a Bariton
Born in Oakland, CA, Claude Heater grew up in a religious family and, at the age of 19, served as a missionary. His journey of faith and challenges within established a zeal for truth that propels Heater to this day. His commitment and desire for truth set the stage for one of the world's greatest singers/actors. Claude Heater is an enigma; his story and accomplishments are as compelling and revealing as any among the world's great singers.
While Claude was in Marin Corps, he heard from Radio Station listening to Immolation Aria from " Göttyerdämmerung," Liebestod from ' Tristan und Isolde " sung by Kirsten Flagstad. He said that this experience felt spiritual, extraordinarily moving. His entire being was inspired by this musical experience. It changed his life. He wanted to be part of making this kind of great music that moves people. He felt music is the closes to god. And then later he pursued him being an Opera singer.
Heater joined the United States Marine Corps in 1945. After serving in the military, he had a sincere desire to pursue a performing career. With no previous vocal training or experience, he began studying voice in Los Angeles. Ironically, his instructor refused to teach him, saying it would be a waste of his time. Fortunately, persistence won, and Heater began a vocal career few ever achieve.
Claude moved to New York City in 1950 to further study singing and acting at the American Theater Wing. In 1950, he made his Broadway debut as a singer and juggler in the original cast of "Top Banana" with Phil Silvers. In 1952, he was the baritone member of the trio in the world premiere at Brandeis University of Leonard Bernstein's "Trouble in Tahiti."
After singing the roles of Germont in "La Traviata" and Valentin in "Faust" with the Amato Opera in NYC in 1952, he moved to Italy to continue G.I. Bill funded vocal studies. Claude finished his studies at Scuola Musicale di Milano in Milan, Italy. He debuted as Sharpless in Milan" s Teatro Piccolo in "Madama Butterfly" and sang Count di Luna in "Il Trovatore" in a neighboring city. In 1953, he toured Spain with an Italian company headed by Mario Fillipeschi in several baritone roles.
Claude was engaged in Würzburg, Germany, in 1954 and opened the season as Count di Luna in "Il Trovatore" and 'Sharpless' in "Madama Butterfly" along with other roles until he returned to Broadway for the musical, "The Most Happy Fella" in 1955. He returned to Europe in 1956 to sing in Basel, Switzerland with Montserrat Caballé in "Tosca," "Pagliacci" and "Tiefland" along with "Masked Ball," "La Boheme," "Lohengrin" and The Fiery Angel. He went from Basel to Berlin to alternate with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in "Masked Ball" and "Don Carlo" and with Hermann Prey in other roles. His debut was as 'Escamillo' in "Carmen." After a successful Germont in "La Traviata" at the Vienna Staatsoper in 1957, he was engaged at the renowned opera house for three years as a baritone under Herbert Von Karajan. The famous conductor took him to La Scala to sing in his "Tristan and Isolde" with Birgit Nilsson. Claude Heater sang the role again with Birgit Nilsson at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus and also debuted at the same time in 1966 in Bayreuth as Siegmund to Gwyneth Jones' Sieglinde.
His final performances as a baritone were in 1961 with the San Francisco Opera: Demetrius in Benjamin Britten's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the boyar Schelkalov in Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov," Ping in Puccini's "Turandot" and Tom Henney in the premiere of Norman Dello Joio's "Blood Moon." His last performance of the season was with Dame Joan Sutherland as Henry Ashton in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."
Opera General Director
Claude was the General Director of the Oakland Opera of California during the 1988-1990 seasons, where among others, Jerome Hines appeared as "Boris Godunov." Claude has since developed dramatic voices from scratch in his San Francisco studio for the last 30 years.