Born in 1926, Theo Adam was one of the leading bass-baritones of the post-World War II era, particularly well known for his Wagnerian roles.
He joined the boys' choir of the Dresden Kreuzchor in 1937, a traditional starting point for singers of that city. He began studying music in his hometown and in Weimar. He was called for military service in 1944 but resumed musical studies when the war ended.
His professional debut was at the Dresden State Opera in 1949, which led to a guest appearance in the 1952 Bayreuth Festival, which was also the year he joined the Berlin State Opera. Despite the handicap of living in the Soviet bloc, Adam was selected in 1963, after a few appearances in smaller roles, to sing the role of Wotan in Wagner's Ring at the Wagnerian shrine of Bayreuth in 1963. He later sang the other major bass-baritone and bass roles in many Wagner operas, including Hans Sachs, King Mark, Amfortas, and the Dutchman. Adam was also well known for the roles of Baron Ochs (Strauss' Rosenkavalier), Pizzaro (Beethoven's Fidelio), Wozzeck (Berg), King Philip (Verdi's Don Carlos), La Roche (Strauss' Capriccio), Don Giovanni (Mozart), and other important parts.
Adam appeared at the world's most prestigious venues, with debuts at the Metropolitan in 1963, Covent Garden in 1967, and the 1972 Salzburg Festival. He was also a highly esteemed oratorio singer. In addition to singing the Bach Passions and several cantatas, he was exceptional in the title role of Mendelssohn's Elijah.
Adam's interpretations were intelligent and dramatic, his voice robust. Beginning in 1977, Adam made regular television appearances on his show "Theo Adam lädt ein" (An Invitation from Theo Adam). The author of several books, Adam is the laureate of numerous awards, including the Schumann Prize of the City of Zwickau, the National First Prize of the German Democratic Republic, and the title of "Chamber Singer of Austria."