Ljubomir Pantscheff

Stalwart of the Vienna State Opera

Ljubomir Pantscheff, opera singer: born Sofia 17 August 1913; died Vienna c 29 August 2003.

The Bulgarian bass Ljubomir Pantscheff spent his entire career as singer - a career that lasted some 35 years - in Vienna, first with the Volksoper and then as a member of the Vienna State Opera. With a large repertory of minor roles, and one or two major ones, he clocked up more than 3,000 performances in mainly German but also in some Italian operas.

He sang frequently at the Salzburg Festival, and travelled with the VSO to several foreign opera houses, including Covent Garden in 1947. He was the kind of unassuming but totally reliable artist that forms the backbone of an opera company. He also played in the singers' football team, regularly trounced by the orchestra.

Born and at first educated in Sofia, Ljubomir Pantscheff intended to become a diplomat. He finished his education in Vienna; at the same time he began to train his voice and from 1935 studied full-time at the Vienna Music Academy. In 1937, after winning an International Singing Competition, he joined the Salzburg Opera Guild.

In 1938 Pantscheff was engaged by the Vienna Volksoper and in October 1945 he became a member of the State Opera, making his début as Don Fernando, the Minister, in Fidelio. As the Opera House had been destroyed in March 1945, performances were given in the Theater an der Wien.

The Vienna State Opera paid a brief visit to Covent Garden in September-October 1947. They brought five operas with them, and Pantscheff certainly sang in Fidelio and Le nozze di Figaro, and very probably also in Salome. In Figaro he sang Antonio the gardener, a role he is reputed to have sung nearly 300 times in his career. The bass made his Salzburg début in 1950 in Fidelio as Second Prisoner. He took part in the world premiere of Rudolf Wagner-Régeny's Das Bergwerk zu Falun in 1961.

Meanwhile the rebuilt Vienna Opera House opened in 1955, only a few weeks after the occupying powers had moved out. Pantscheff continued to accumulate roles. He sang Masetto in a new production of Don Giovanni in 1963 (when he was already 50).

He took part in the Vienna premiere of Gottfried von Einem's Dantons Tod in 1967. In 1972 at the Wiesbaden Festival he sang Antonio in Le nozze di Figaro for something like the 290th time.

Elizabeth Forbes

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