At the age of 12, Robert Biberti was expelled from school and began an apprenticeship as a woodcarver with his father. Robert’s eponymous father, once a famous opera singer, had previously ruined his voice through alcohol and an unhealthy lifestyle. However, he aroused the son’s interest in music: Robert sang in operas and theaters.
In response to a newspaper advertisement, he appeared in 1927 for an audition at Harry Frommermann’s apartment in Berlin-Friedenau, Stubenrauchstrasse 47. Both of them shared a fondness for the sound of the American Revelers. They decided to form a similar but German-speaking ensemble: the Comedian Harmonists. In 1941, after the ensemble had broken up after the Jewish members had emigrated and was subsequently re-established as a master sextet, Biberti was drafted into the Berlin Air Raid Protection Center.
From 1931 to around the mid-1950s, Robert Biberti had an eight-room apartment in Berlin-Charlottenburg in the house at Carmerstrasse 11, including a rehearsal room and office. In 1944 he married Hilde Longino. Between 1950 and 1980 he ran an antiques business and wrote articles about the Comedian Harmonists for the radio.
He could not make a living from these activities alone. He did this through the royalties from the Comedian Harmonists publications, which he cashed out in full. While Harry Frommermann fought for his share of the royalties after his return to Germany, Ari Leschnikoff died impoverished despite numerous pleadings to Robert Biberti (Ari had transferred his rights to him in 1939 to pay off debts he owed to Robert Biberti).
In 1973, Biberti adopted the actress, director, and author Ilse Biberti as his nominal daughter. In 1985 he died of kidney failure at the age of 83 and was buried in the Wilmersdorf cemetery .
In Harmony: A New Musical, Robert Biberti is portrayed on stage by Sean Bell (“Bobby”).
The Musical about The Comedian Harmonists
Starting performances on Broadway on October 18th is the first and only musical about this singing group – Harmony: A New Musical.
The complete Broadway cast includes Chip Zien as Rabbi, Sierra Boggess as Mary, Julie Benko as Ruth, Sean Bell, Danny Kornfeld, Zal Owen, Eric Peters, Blake Roman, and Steven Telsey as the Comedian Harmonists, Allison Semmes as Josephine Baker, Andrew O’Shanick as Standartenfϋhrer, Zak Edwards, Dan Hoy, Bruce Landry, Rhonni Rose Mantilla, Daniel Z. Miller, Benjamin H. Moore, Matthew Mucha, Constantine Pappas, Kayleen Seidl, Kyla Stone, Bronwyn Tarboton, Kate Wesler, Stuart Zagnit, and Lee Zarrett.
To learn more about Harmony: A New Musical, click here.