Formes, Karl Johann
One of the most renowned bassos of his time; was the son of a sexton at Mühlheim-on-the-Rhine. He gained the greater part of his musical education by singing in the church choir of his native town. The attention of the musical public was first directed to the young singer when he appeared for the benefit of the Cathedral fund at Cologne in 1841. The next year he made his debut in opera, his success leading to an engagement for three years. He sang in Vienna, and in 1849 appeared in London with a German company, assuming the part of Sarastro in The Magic Flute at the Drury Lane Theatre. The following year Formes appeared with the Italian Opera at Covent Garden, as Caspar in Der Freischütz, and sang there every season for fifteen years. He was also heard in Berlin and at the Philharmonic concerts in London. Formes' voice was one of the most beautiful ever heard, of wide compass, and wonderful quality and depth, and added to these attractions he had an exceptionally fine stage presence, an attractive personality and marked ability as an actor. He passed a goodly portion of his life in Russia and Spain, and in 1857 visited the United States, singing in most of the large cities. He led a wandering life, and seldom stayed long in one place. He was a very old man when he married, nearly seventy-two, and he took for his wife one of his pupils. They settled in San Francisco, where Formes sang in concert and taught music. He remained strong and active to the day of his death. He composed several pieces for the piano and organ, among others The Mill Wheel, a version of an old German folk-song, which is perhaps the best known of his compositions.