Hermann Prey, 69, a German baritone and butcher's son who became an internationally acclaimed opera star and concert artist, died July 23 at his home near here after a heart attack.
Equally at home in operas by Rossini, Mozart, Wagner or Strauss, Mr. Prey was also considered the greatest contemporary performer of Franz Schubert's songs. He started an annual Schubert festival that alternates between New York and Vienna.
"Even after more than four decades on stage, Mr. Prey's lyrical baritone still exudes a wonderful sonorous warmth," the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel wrote last year after a Schubert concert.
He performed at New York's Metropolitan Opera, the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth, Germany, and Milan's La Scala. Mr. Prey sang at a matinee at Munich's Prince Regent Theater on July 19.
Born in Berlin, Mr. Prey showed his musical talent early, and he was singing in the city's Mozart boys choir by age 10. He was eligible for military service at age 15, but his father burned his draft notice when it arrived in 1945, during the last siege of Berlin.
After the war, Mr. Prey organized a small dance band to help finance his music studies, writing popular songs that the group performed in nightclubs. Among his voice teachers were Harry Gottschalk and Gunter Baum.
With a soft baritone that was close to a tenor, he won a "master singer" contest sponsored by the U.S. Army in 1952, besting about 2,800 other young singers with his interpretation of the aria "Eri tu" from Verdi's "Masked Ball."
After the contest, he was immediately signed for a two-week U.S. tour and made his American debut in November 1952 with the Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy.
Three years later, Mr. Prey had his international breakthrough singing Figaro in Rossini's "Barber of Seville" at the State Opera in Vienna. Critics hailed his performance as sensational.
He made his New York debut at Carnegie Hall in 1956. His first appearance at New York's Metropolitan Opera four years later, as Wolfram in Wagner's "Tannhauser," earned him only moderate reviews.
But later opera and concert performances made him increasingly popular, winning him favorable comparisons to the great German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.
In later years, Mr. Prey turned down the heavier operatic roles and alternated opera performances with song recitals to keep his voice light and flexible and to ensure himself a long career.
He was also a director, notably of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" at festivals in the Austrian composer's home town of Salzburg. Survivors include his wife and three children.