Wolfgang Windgassen, German Heldentenor – Classical Music and Musicians


Wolfgang Windgassen

June 26, 1914 – September 8, 1974

Wolfgang Windgassen was the main Wagnerian tenor of the put up‐conflict technology. Though he sang occasionally within the U.S.  (six performances within the Metropolitan Opera’s 1957 “Ring” cycles and some Tristans in San Francisco in 1970), Windgassen was lengthy thought-about an, indispensable participant in essential Wagner performances in Europe, significantly on the Bayreuth Competition the place he appeared 159 occasions between 1951 and 1966. The late Wagnerian conductor Hans Knappertsbusch as soon as summed up Windgassen’s distinctive place within the meager ranks of Heldentenors when a critic requested him: “What within the identify of God would Bayreuth do with out Windgassen?” Knappertsbusch merely shrugged and growled again: “What else? Go and fetch him directly.”

Windgassen made his début at Pforzheim as Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly. After military service he grew to become a member of the Stuttgart opera firm, and succeeded his father as principal tenor. Stuttgart opera remained his residence base all through his profession, and for the final two years of his life he was its creative director.

Windgassen’s voice was not as heroic as pre-war Heldentenors corresponding to Lauritz Melchior or his speedy predecessor Max Lorenz, however he used it with such talent and musicianship that he’s usually considered essentially the most achieved Wagner tenor of the second half of the 20th century.  Windgassen’s particular strengths lay within the lyrical fantastic thing about his unmistakably private timbre and, when the spirit was upon him, within the passionate depth of his declamation.  Windgassen demonstrated with a sturdy, poised, totally reliable vocal line of uncommon expressive plasticity that would immediately talk the fragile tenderness of Lohengrin’s Farewell or the sarcasm and despair of Tannhäuser’s Rome Narration.

Windgassen recorded all his main Wagner roles save Walther von Stolzing in “Die Meistersinger” and these are the mementos by which we’ll bear in mind his artwork. Unfor tunately not recorded are the numerous non‐Wagnerian components sang all through his profession. The Windgassen repertory included nicely over 50 roles by different composers, and guests to Stuttgart, his operatic residence‐base all through his profession, would possibly catch him singing Cavaradossi one night time or Hoffmann or Otello or Bacchus or perhaps a delightfully comedian Fra Diavolo on one other. However Windgassen made his worldwide impression as a uncommon sort of Wagnerian Heldentenor—a lyrical Heldentenor whose musical and vocal qualities are in brief provide on the operatic stage at present. Birgit Nilsson, Windgassen’s colleague at Bayreuth, Vienna and the opposite principal opera homes of the world, has contributed the accompanying memory of a creative partnership that grew to become paradigm of Wagner efficiency requirements all through the fifties and sixties.

Wolfgang Windgassen (26 June 1914 – 8 September 1974) was a heldentenor internationally recognized for his performances in Wagner operas.

Born in Annemasse, France, he was the son (and pupil) of a well-known German Heldentenor, Fritz Windgassen (who was additionally the instructor of Gottlob Frick). His mom was the German coloratura soprano Vali von der Osten, sister of the rather more well-known soprano Eva von der Osten, who created the a part of Octavian in Richard Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier. Each Windgassen’s mother and father had been longtime mainstays of the Staatsoper Stuttgart.

Windgassen sang in any respect the essential opera homes all around the world. He was invited to carry out on the reopening of the Bayreuth Competition in 1951 and continued to look there until 1970, singing all the nice Wagner tenor roles: Erik, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan, Walter, Loge, Siegmund, each Siegfrieds and Parsifal, his debut position in 1951.


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