Walter Kreppel

Bass singer perfect in Wagnerian roles

Walter Kreppel, opera singer: born Nuremberg, Germany 3 June 1923; died 18 October 2003.

The German bass Walter Kreppel was a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1960 until he retired in the mid-1970s. He also sang frequently at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and in Berlin but, during the first 10 years of his singing career, he served an apprenticeship in smaller German opera houses.

His warm, black-toned voice and sympathetic personality were perfect for Wagnerian roles such as Pogner in Die Meistersinger and King Marke in Tristan und Isolde, but he also sang in several Italian operas, notably as the Padre Guardiano in Verdi's La forza del destino. Another favourite role was Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, which he sang at Covent Garden.

Kreppel was born in Nuremberg, where he studied at the Conservatory, and where he made his début in 1945 (when he was only 22) as Tommaso in Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland. In 1948 he moved to Wurzburg and from there to Heidelberg, Gelsenkirchen, Hanover and then to Frankfurt, where he remained until 1959. At the Vienna State Opera, his earlier roles included Ramfis, the High Priest in Aida, and Rocco in Fidelio, which became the role he sang most frequently in Vienna.

In 1962 he sang Sarastro at Covent Garden, and later that year Fasolt in Das Rheingold at Bayreuth. Though not exactly a sympathetic character, Fasolt would at least prefer to keep Freia, the Goddess of Youth, rather than exchange her for the Nibelung Gold, as his brother, Giant Fafner, insists. The following year Kreppel made his American début at San Francisco as the Padre Guardiano.

Back in Vienna Kreppel had a new role as one of the four Tempters in the first performance in German of Ildebrando Pizzetti's L'assassinio nella cattedrale. Becket was sung by Hans Hotter, and the scene where Becket resists the Tempters was specially noticed for its dramatic strength. Kreppel again worked with Hotter as a delegate to the Council of Trent in a revival of Pfitzner's Palestrina, directed by Hotter, who also sang Cardinal Borromeo after the opening performance.

After a visit to Montreal with the Vienna company for Expo 67, when he sang the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, in 1968 he went to the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, for King Marke in Tristan und Isolde. In 1972 he sang Wotan in Das Rheingold at Graz, receiving excellent notices.

In 1973 in Vienna he took a minor role in Schoenberg's Moses und Aron then, after singing Ramfis and the Commendatore, retired.

Elizabeth Forbes

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