Gösta Winbergh

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Gösta Winbergh, opera singer: born Stockholm 30 December 1943; married (three children); died Vienna 18 March 2002.

For the first two-thirds of his 30-year career, the Swedish tenor Gösta Winbergh was greatly admired as a singer of Mozart's operas. His Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni was applauded at the Metropolitan, New York, at the Salzburg Festival, in Houston and Chicago, Berlin and Barcelona. He sang Ferrando in Cosí fan tutte at the Drottninghom Court Theatre, Belmonte at the Glyndebourne Festival and Tamino in Der Zauberflöte for his début at La Scala, Milan. Other Mozart roles in his repertory were Idomeneo, Mitridate and Titus.

He also sang lyric roles such as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Duke in Rigoletto, Alfredo in La traviata, Nemorino in L'elisir d'amore and Lenski in Eugène Onegin. Then in 1991 at Zurich he sang his first Lohengrin, and a whole new career opened out before him, with further exploration of Wagner, the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Don José in Carmen and Florestan in Fidelio.

Gösta Winbergh was born in Stockholm, where he studied at the Royal Music Academy with three Swedish former singers, the tenor Martin Oehman, baritone Erik Saedén and soprano Hjördis Schymberg. He made his début at the Storatheater, Gothenburg, in 1971, and then became a member of the Royal Opera in Stockholm, making guest appearances in Copenhagen, Aix-en-Provence, San Francisco and, in 1980, Glyndebourne, where he sang Belmonte, scoring a great success for his honeyed voice and elegant singing.

In 1982 Wimbergh made his Chicago début as Ferrando, and his Covent Garden début in the title role of La Clemenza di Tito, which was also much admired. The following year he sang the title role of Mitridate, re di Ponto at the Schwetzingen Festival, and made his Metropolitan début as Don Ottavio. In 1984 he sang Tamino in Salzburg and Ferrando at Drottningholm, as well as Admetus in Gluck's Alceste in Geneva. He made his début at La Scala in 1985, singing Tamino, and returned there in 1990 for the title role of Idomeneo, repeating the role at Madrid the following year.

Nineteen ninety-one also found the tenor singing Jenik in The Bartered Bride in Bonn and returning to La Scala as Pylades in Gluck's Iphigénie en Tauride. However, the most important event for Winbergh that year was his first Lohengrin, in Zurich. Wisely not attempting a special Wagnerian style, he sang the role as if it were by Mozart, and the result was unbelievably beautiful. He repeated Lohengrin in Houston and Barcelona in 1992, and in May 1993 in Berlin he sang another new Wagner role, Walther in Die Meistersinger, which he brought to Covent Garden in October.

After the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten in Zurich in 1994, Parsifal in Stockholm and Erik in Der fliegende Holländer at Venice in 1995, Winbergh introduced his Lohengrin to Rome and Paris Bastille (a concert performance because the stage hands were on strike) in 1996; he then came back to Covent Garden in 1997 with both Lohengrin and Walther. He had completely assimilated both roles by now and, with superb diction allied to his lovely tone and fine phrasing, the performances were highly enjoyable. In 1997 he also sang Erik in San Francisco.

Huon in Weber's Oberon provided a new role in Zurich in 1998, when he also sang Parsifal in Berlin. In 1999 he appeared as Lohengrin in St Petersburg as a guest with the Kirov Opera, sang Walther in Chicago and returned to Stockholm for Don José in Carmen. His last new role was Florestan in Fidelio, which he sang at the Vienna State Opera the night before he died.

Elizabeth Forbes