Wolfgang Windgassen

Picture of Wolfgang Windgassen

Letter from Sigurd Björling.
In 1951, Sigurd Björling was in Bayreuth to sing the Wotans. He attends the rehearsals for Parsifal, hates it and reports home:
"This whole thing is a nightmare. The singers are simply beyond good and evil. The tenor (Windgassen) is about the most awful tenor I have ever heard, Kundry (Mödl) has the rawest voice and the most vulgar appearance of the entire Festival, and Amfortas (London) is singing his first Amfortas, and he seems like he got up on the wrong side of the bed. It's easier to count the bars that he sings correctly than the bears he screws up. He is flat most of the times anyway"
I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the letter.
Wolfgang Windgassen was born on June 24, 1914 in Annemasse, France. His father was the tenor Fritz Windgassen, tenor in Kassel and Stuttgart. His mother was Vali von der Osten, coloratura soprano in Kassel and sister of Eva van der Osten,, who was a favorite in Dresden. Windgassen was married twice. His second wife was the soprano Lore Wissmann.

At the beginning Windgassen was a voluntary technical assiatant at the Stuttgart Opera. He then studied singing with Alfons Fischer and his father at the Stuttgart conservatory.

Windgassen made his debut in 1939 at the Stadttheater in Pforzheim as Linkerton.

After the war, Windgassen was engaged in 1945 at the Staatsoper in Stuttgart. First, he sang roles such as Tamino, Hoffmann, Alfredo, Riccardo, Duca, Alvaro, Radames, Rodolfo, Cavaradossi, Linkertom, Canio, Turriddu, Florestan, Max, and Schwalb (First German performance of Mathis der Maler).

In 1951, Windgassen started singing Wagner roles. His first Siegmund, in 1951, at the Stuttgart Staatsoper was a great success. He sang at the Bayreuth Festival from 1951 to 1970: Erik, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Loge, Siegmund, Siegfried (x2), Walther, Tristan and Parsifal.

His repertory included, besides the Wagner roles, Adolar, Kaiser, Florestan, Otello, Eisenstein and even Orlofsky for the TV.

Windgassen sang in Wien, Paris, London, Milano, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Sydney, New York and San Francisco among others. He remained until his death a member of the Stuttgart Staatsoper. In 1970, he started to direct operas. From 1972 to 1974, he was the artistic director of the Stuttgart Staatsoper and from 1963 to 1972 president of the Genossenschaft Deutscher Bühnenangehöriger. On September 8, 1974 he died suddenly in Stuttgart from a heart attack, after singing Tannhäser for his 60th birthday. Windgassen is buried at the Waldfriedhof Stuttgart.

Wolfgang Windgassen - born June 26th, 1914 Annemasse (Haute-Savoie/France), died Sept. 8th, 1974, Stuttgart. Son of the tenor Fritz Windgassen and the soprano Vally van Osten. Shortly after his debut 1939 in Pforzheim, his career was interrupted by military service. Member of the Stuttgart opera from 1945 to his death, later at the same time that theatre's manager. He was the first and foremost heldentenor of his age, singing literally at every important opera house anywhere in the world. The conductor Joseph Keilberth once said: "Once upon a time, every provincial theatre's ensemble boasted two or three heldentenors. Today, total breakdown if Windgassen has to cancel a performance." Which was certainly true... and a testimony to the quality of the 1950s/1960s opera scene, though not a favourable one. Windgassen's voice and technique were definitely unremarkable, but he was an intelligent vocal actor.
Robert Schlesinger
Wolfgang Windgassen sings Lohengrin: In fernem Land
Windgassen's humor: instead of singing "Drin [Monsalvat] ein Gefäß von wundertät'gem Segen" he sings: "Drin [Monsalvat] ein Gesäß von wundertät'gem Segen".
In RA Format

Wolfgang Windgassen sings Otello: Nium mi tema , in German
In RA Format

Wolfgang Windgassen sings Die Walküre: Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond
In RA Format

Wolfgang Windgassen sings Lohengrin: Nun sei bedankt...Wenn ich im Kampfe für dich siege
(starts from Heil, König Heinrich) , with Astrid Varnay and Joseph Greindl
In RA Format
I wish to thank Daniele Godor for the picture and (Lohengrin: Im fernem Land).
I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recording (Lohengrin: Nun sei) and notes.

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