"Brünnhild' die hehrste Frau ..." Götterdämmerung
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b. 1925-2012)
German bass-baritone Albert Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau began formal voice lessons at sixteen. When he was drafted into the Wehrmacht in 1943 and captured in Italy in 1945. He spent two years as an American prisoner of war. After returning to Germany he studied briefly at the Berlin Conservatory. His professional career began in 1947 in Badenweiler where he sang Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem without any rehearsal — he was a last-minute substitute for a singer who was indisposed. In the fall of 1948 he was engaged as principal lyric baritone at the Städtische Oper in Berlin, making his debut under Ferenc Fricsay. Subsequently, Fischer-Dieskau made guest appearances at the opera houses in Vienna and Munich. After 1949 he added concert tours in England, Holland, Switzerland, France and Italy. He made regular opera appearances in Bayreuth between 1954 and 1961 and in Salzburg from 1956 until the early 1970s. His first concert tour in the United States took place in 1955, and he gave his first lieder recital at New York City's Carnegie Hall in 1964.
"Als junger Liebe Lust mir verblich" Die Walküre
Ferdinand Frantz (1906-1959)
Ferdinand Frantz was among the last of that extraordinary class of singers able to realize with vocal authority the heroic roles written by Richard Wagner for bass-baritone. Frantz's sizeable instrument offered a weighty lower register to anchor a firm and javelin-like top, precisely the qualities demanded by Wagner for what amounted to an entirely new vocal category. Frantz was able to traverse these exhausting roles with vocal strength and without tiring. Several of his most important roles were captured on both live and studio recordings during the years of his prime. he sang with the Vienna Staatsoper, Dresden's Semper Oper, Salzburg, La Scala, and, later, at Covent Garden. His Metropolitan Opera debut came on December 12, 1949, as Wotan in Die Walküre. While he entered the company's roster as a relatively unknown artist, he made an instantaneous impression for his noble bearing, comprehension of Wagner style, and a voluminous voice well able to stay the course in the tiring stretches of the role's final act.
"Wache, Wala!" Siegfried
Hans Hotter (1909-2003)
Hans Hotter studied with Matthäus Roemer in Munich, working as an organist and choirmaster before making his opera début at Troppau in 1930. He performed standard baritone roles in Breslau (1931), Prague (1932-34), and Hamburg (1934-1945). His sang his first Wotan, a role with which the rest of his singing career would be associated, in 1937 in Munich. He made his Metropolitan Opera début in 1950 as the Dutchman. In four seasons at the Met, Hotter sang 35 performances of 13 roles, only three of which were non-Wagnerian. In 1952, Hotter began his 12-year association with Bayreuth, and for the the rest of the 1950's and 1960's, he was generally regarded as the world's leading Wagnerian bass-baritone. His interpretations of the roles of Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger and Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen were especially esteemed for their nobility and grandeur.
"Blick' ich umher" Tannhäuser
Herbert Janssen (1892-1965)
After studying law and serving as an officer in World War I, Herbert Janssen studied with Oskar Daniel in Berlin and made his debut at the Berlin State Opera in 1922. He remained with the company until 1938 where he was very successful not only in Wagner but also in Verdi and French operas. Guest appearances followed in Vienna and Buenos Aires. He was regarded as the outstanding exponent of the lighter Wagnerian baritone parts (Kurwenal, Wolfram, Amfortas, Gunther, Telramund) and appeared at Covent Garden from 1926 to 1939) and Bayreuth from 1930 to 1937. The Nazi regime caused him to leave Germany in 1938. He made his debut at the opera house of Philadelphia in 1939 as Wotan in Siegfried. He was immediately engaged at the Met and remained there from 1939 to 1952. He was a frequent guest at all major American opera houses. After Friedrich Schorr’s retirement in 1943 he reluctantly took over the heavier roles of Wotan and Hans Sachs, but they did not really suit his voice.
"Abendlich strahlt der Sonne Auge" Das Rheingold
George London (1920-1979)
He was born George Burnstein to Russian parents in Montreal. He grew up in Los Angeles and made his debut in 1942 in Hollywood in the role of Dr. Grenvil in La Traviata. He continued his studies in New York, frequently appearing in musicals. In 1947 he toured with Mario Lanza and Frances Yeend as a member of the “Belcanto Trio.” In 1949 Karl Böhm engaged him to appear at the Vienna State Opera as Amonasro. Subsequently, he appeared as Galitzki, Escamillo, the four villains in The Tales of Hoffmann and in the title role in Boris Godunov. He was appointed “Kammersänger” of the Vienna State Opera, a great honor for a Canadian-born singer. In 1951 he made his debut in Bayreuth and sang there every year until 1964. In 1951 he joined the Met where he sang Don Giovanni, Scarpia and again Boris. He was invited to Moscow to sing Boris, the first American singer ever to appear there. In 1961 George London suffered paralysis of his vocal chords which put an end to his singing career. He sang until 1965.
"Wer meines Speeres" Die Walküre
James Morris (b. 1947)
James Morris is one of the world’s leading singers and one of the definitive Wotan of the present day. He was born and educated in Baltimore and studied with opera legend Rosa Ponselle. A t the age of 23, he became the youngest male singer on contract with the Metropolitan Opera, with whom he has recently celebrated his 30th anniversary. James Morris is a guest artist in San Francisco, Chicago, Vienna and Paris, and he has been a regular soloist in Munich, Berlin and London's Covent Garden His wide repertoire includes King Philip in Don Carlos, Claggart in Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd, Mefistofele in Faust, Scarpia in Tosca, and Iago in Verdi's Otello. Morris is also one of the great Wagnerians of our time and has performed the title roles in Der Fliegende Holländer and the Wotan/Wanderer roles in the Ring operas. In recent seasons this artist has added Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger to his repertoire to great critical acclaim.
"Wozu die Dienste ohne Zahl" Tristan und Isolde
René Pape (b. 1964)
René Pape is one of the most outstanding singers of the younger generation. He has been a member of the Deutsche Staatsoper, Berlin since 1988 singing the greatest roles of the bass repertoire. In 1994 Wolfgang Wagner invited René Pape to Bayreuth to perform the role of Fasolt in Das Rheingold under James Levine. Also under James Levine, René Pape gave his successful Metropolitan Opera debut in New York in December of 1995. He has become a regular guest there singing König Heinrich in Lohengrin, König Marke in Tristan und Isolde and Rocco in Fidelio (each under James Levine) and also Escamillo in Carmen for the first time. He made his debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago in 1999 singing Pogner in Die Meistersinger (under Christian Thielemann) and in January 2000 König Marke in Tristan und Isolde (conductor, Semyon Bychkov). His San Francisco Opera debut was in the 2001/ 2002 season as Pogner in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In December 2001 he was chosen by the magazine "Musical America" as Singer of the Year.
"Was duftet doch der Flieder" Die Meistersinger
Friedrich Schorr (1889-1953)
He was born in Hungary, and later in his life, being forced to leave Germany because of the Nazi regime, he became a naturalized United States citizen. Friedrich Schorr studied with Adolf Robinson, sang some small roles in Chicago in early 1912, and made his true début in Graz in June of 1912 as Wotan in Die Walküre. Following brief engagements in Graz, Prague and Köln he came into his own at the Staatsoper, Berlin in 1923 where he remained on the roster for seven years. Although he sang a wide repertory, he excelled in the great Wagnerian bass-baritone roles, singing in Bayreuth from 1925-1931, at London's Covent Garden from 1925-1933 and at the Metropolitan Opera from 1924-1943. His Wotan and Hans Sachs long dominated the international operatic scene. He was the outstanding exponent of these and of numerous other Wagnerian roles. His voice had an unmistakable majesty and unfailing beauty.
"Nun zäume dein Roß" Die Walküre
Hermann Uhde (1914-1965)
Hermann Uhde’s American mother was a student of the famous baritone Karl Scheidemantel. He was trained as a bass, by Philipp Kraus at the Opera School in Bremen, where he made his debut as Titurel in Parsifal in 1936. After engagements in Freiburg and Munich he appeared for the first time in baritone roles at the Deutsches Theater im Haag in 1942. He was a prisoner-of-war from April 1945 to February 1946, and did not return to the stage until 1947. He subsequently appeared at the opera houses of Hamburg, Vienna and Munich. He was regularly invited to the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1960 where he became one of its most important members, appearing as the Holländer, Klingsor, Gunther, Donner, Wotan in Das Rheingold, Telramund and Melot.  He was also a guest at the Salzburg Festival and performed the Metropolitan Opera première of Alban Berg's Wozzeck in English. where he regularly appeared from 1955 to 1961 and again in 1964. He died of a heart attack during a performance of Niels Viggo Bentzon’s Faust III, at Copenhagen in 1965.
"Leb'wohl, du kühness" Die Walkure
Anton van Rooy (1870-1932)
In his day, Anton Van Rooy was regarded as the greatest male singer in Wagnerian opera. He made his operatic debut at the 1897 Bayreuth Festival in part through the urging of Cosima Wagner. He worked in the Bayreuth company until 1902, playing all the major bass roles in Richard Wagner's operas, including Wotan, the Dutchman, and Hans Sachs. Word about Van Rooy's exceptional talents and magnificent voice quickly spread and by the end of 1898, Van Rooy had made his first appearances at Covent Garden in London and at New York's Metropolitan Opera. He continued to be a favorite at the Met through 1908 and at Covent Garden through his retirement in 1913. In 1903, Van Rooy participated in the notorious "bootleg" performance of Parsifal at the Metropolitan; this was the first Parsifal to be given in defiance of Wagner's own rule banning any staging of the work outside of Bayreuth. While this performance laid the groundwork for making Parsifal available to the general public, it had grave implications for Van Rooy. When she learned of Van Rooy's betrayal, Cosima Wagner henceforth prohibited his appearance in any Bayreuth productions. Van Rooy was not even welcome to attend one as an audience member.
More Great Wagnerian Baritones and Basses of the Past. Click the aria's name to hear a sound sample.
Emil Schipper
Theodor Scheidl
Richard Mayr
Wilhelm Hesch
Walter Soomer