Oehman, Carl Martin

 (Öhman, Oehmann), Swedish tenor, 1887 - 1967

As Lohengrin (courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)

Biographical notes:

Carl Martin Oehman was born in Floda (Sweden) as the son of a Lutheran pastor and initially served as an officer in the Swedish Army. In 1907 he began his musical studies which included piano, organ and music theory at the Royal Conservatory in Stockholm. He eventually studied with Carl Gentzel at Stockholm, as well as with Oxilia and Quadri in Milan. As a concert singer he debuted in 1914, his debut on stage took place at the Stora Theatre in Göteborg in Auber’s Fra Diavolo. In 1919 he was engaged at the Royal Opera House of Stockholm where he became a regular member for more than 20 years until 1941. Oehman enjoyed his first international success in 1924 at the Met, not as a Wagnerian singer but in the first American performance of Janacek’s Jenufa as Laca, in a cast which included Laubenthal, Matzenauer, Jeritza and Schützendorf. The Met also saw him as Samson but for whatever reason he was not reinvited. After a guest performance at the Vienna State Opera Oehman signed a contract with the “Städtisches Opernhaus Berlin” and became one of the most popular singers in the ensemble until 1937. His repertoire included the more lyrical Wagnerian roles as well as the tenor roles in Don Carlos and Simon Boccanegra. He had his biggest successes as a Wagner singer and his appearances at the Zoppot Festival in 1926 as Lohengrin, 1929 as Stolzing, and 1934 as Siegmund and Stolzing have to be counted as milestones in his career. London heard him in 1927 where he appeared at Covent Garden as Tannhäuser and Stolzing. At the beginning of the Thirties the artist restricted his international career to Berlin and Stockholm. In 1934 he performed one last time at the Vienna State Opera and retired from stage in 1937. Until 1940 he remained active as a concert singer.  Oehman was enormously popular as Sou-Chong in Lehár’s Das Land des Lächelns on tours, records and radio, a role he sang more than 700 times! He was decorated “Litteris et artibus” (1927) and became a “Swedish Royal Court Singer” (1933). Carl Martin Oehman was a highly sought-after singing teacher. To his students belonged the great Finnish bass Martti Talvela and Nicolai Gedda.


As Radames (courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)



Recital (Arias by Wagner, Leoncavallo, Bizet, Verdi, Giordano, Puccini, Auber, Ponchielli)

Preiser - LV

Four Scandinavion Tenors of the Past (+ Björn Talén, Gunnar Graarud, Torsten Ralf)

Preiser - LV

Meta Seinemeyer (duet from Tosca)

Preiser - LV

18 Royal Swedish Tenors (Rosén, Brilioth, R. Björling, Vikström, Ulfung, Gedda, Grundén, G. Björling, Söderström, Ohlson,               J. Björling, Andersson, Svanholm, Beyron, Stockman, Lennartsson, Ödmann) -> highly recommended!


Mahler - Das Lied von der Erde (Schuricht 1939/Thorborg/Oehman’s final appearance)



As Samson at the Met, 1924 (courtesy of Charles B. Mintzer)


Torsten Ralf, Set Svanholm and Carl Martin Oehman are the most prominent exponents among Swedish dramatic tenors of the 1920/30s. Unfortunately, we do not have many recordings of Oehman who is my favorite of the three.

His was a beautiful “nordic” voice and used with remarkable sensivity and control of the voice. Lohengrin’s narration “In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten” is particularly fine. He had a superb head register at his command (Lohengrin, Stolzing, Andrea Chénier and Otello), and there are but a few dramatic tenors with his ability to produce a fine mezza voce.

Schuricht’s recording of Mahler’s das Lied von der Erde, with the Concertgebouworkest Amsterdam and the soloists Kerstin Thorborg/Carl Martin Oehman is one of the references of this much recorded cycle. It was Oehman’s final appearance, in which he sang magnificently. What a youthful voice of a 56 years old singer! The recording also records an infamous incident in a quiet section of the last movement where a woman in the audience calls out to the conductor, much to the annoyance of the rest of the audience: "Deutschland über alles, Herr Schuricht !" Carl Schuricht, a German, was a late replacement for a sick Willem Mengelberg and the atmosphere in the hall, weeks after the outbreak of war, must have been electric.

  In fernem Land, unnahbar euren Schritten (Title role in Lohengrin / Wagner / Parlophon 1927)


Nicolai Gedda with Carl Martin Oehman (right), 1952


Two of Oehman’s students - Martti Talvela and Nicolai Gedda


My warmest thanks to Charles B. Mintzer