Otto Edelmann

Bass-baritone with the Vienna State Opera

Otto Edelmann, opera singer: born Brunn am Gebirge, Austria-Hungary 5 February 1917; married 1960 Ilse-Marie Straub (two sons, one daughter); died Vienna 14 May 2003.

There were two distinct strands to the career of the Austrian bass-baritone Otto Edelmann. One was composed of the great Wagner roles, Wotan in Die Walküre, Amfortas and Gurnemanz in Parsifal and King Mark in Tristan und Isolde. The other strand included a number of comic roles such as Leporello in Don Giovanni, Rocco in Fidelio, Plunkett in Martha and Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier.

His finest characterisation, Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, was both Wagnerian and, though hardly to be described as comic, was richly humorous as well as human. Like many other artists of his generation, he lost seven of the best years of his singing life during the Second World War and its aftermath.

Edelmann was born in 1917, just outside Vienna. He studied at the Vienna Music Academy with the Norwegian Wagner tenor Gunnar Graarud, and made his début in 1937 at Gera in Thuringia, as Mozart's Figaro. He was engaged at Nuremberg from 1938 to 1940, and then served as a soldier, fighting on the Eastern Front. In 1947 he became a member of the Vienna State Opera (at that time performing at the Theater an der Wien), where he remained for the rest of his career. From small roles such as the Hermit in Der Freischütz, his début role, and Pali, a gypsy, in Der Zigeunerbaron by Johann Strauss, he soon graduated to major roles such as Leporello, which he sang in 1948 at the Salzburg Festival and Daland in Der fliegende Holländer.

During the 1951-52 season in Vienna, he sang Kecal in The Bartered Bride, and shared the title role of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra with Paul Schoffler. When the Bayreuth Festival re-opened in 1951, Edelmann sang Hans Sachs, repeating the part the following year, which was when I first heard him sing. Aged 35, with his fine voice in peak condition, he was a very impressive Sachs. Unlike the other operas that year, all directed by Wieland Wagner, Die Meistersinger was an old, naturalistic production, and the frisson in the audience occasioned by Sachs' tribute to "Holy German Art" in the third act was palpable.

Edelmann appeared at La Scala, Milan, several times between 1951 and 1954. He made his Metropolitan Opera début on 11 November 1954, as Sachs. Baron Ochs was his début role in 1955 at San Francisco. Edelmann took no part in the opening performances of the re-built Vienna State Opera, being in San Francisco at the time, but in 1960 he sang Ochs in Salzburg on the occasion of the opening of the new Festspielhaus with a performance of Der Rosenkavalier.

In 1965 he sang Ochs at Glyndebourne, giving a subtle, warmly sung and not at all vulgar characterisation that perfectly suited the small theatre. During the 1960s he also sang Ochs regularly in Vienna, where the older incumbents of the role had finally retired. In 1970, the year he left the Metropolitan, he sang St Peter in Carl Orff's Der Mond at the Vienna Volksoper. He was awarded the Max Reinhardt Medal at Salzburg in 1971.

Edelmann recorded many of his best roles, including Hans Sachs, Baron Ochs, Wotan in Die Walküre, Leporello and Rocco, while he displays a fine Viennese accent as Graf Waldner in Arabella.

Elizabeth Forbes

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border