First Recorded Cantor and Renowned Opera Singer



 Selmar Cerini (1860-1923) was born in Wulka, Russo-Poland as Selmar Steifmann. At a very early age his vocal talents were discovered. Although he experienced significant obstacles and hardships to develop those talents, he did develop them to the point of great acclaim. His voice training was in smaller synagogues and later in various other places where he was trained for Jewish music and secular music.  At one point he was in the choir of the Neue Synagogue in Berlin under the direction of choirmaster Louis Lewandowski.He rapidly grew into a notable opera singer and developed a very successful career as an opera singer.

Eventually the requirements of performing conflicted with his Jewish beliefs and practices. In 1894 he gave up his opera career to become the Oberkantor of the Neue Synagogue in Breslau, Germany. He remained in that position until his death in 1923. He also continued to give recitals as his singing popularity with both Jews and non-Jews never waned.

In 1901 he began his recording career, as documented in various publications, as the first recorded cantor. Unfortunately, to date, none of the first recordings have been located.

There was a published biography in 1900; both the original German biography and the translated English version are contained on this website.

Prominent descendants include son Hermann Cerini and grandsons Alfred Jospe and Erwin Jospe.

Please Note:

  • Comments and questions are most welcome. Select the CONTACT tab above or send email to:
  • To get on or off the distribution list for website updates, either Select the CONTACT tab above or send email to: