Obituary: Gottlob Frick

Gottlob Frick, opera singer: born Oelbronn, Wurtemberg 28 July 1906; died Pforzheim, Baden-Wurtemberg 18 August 1994.

NO ONE who heard the great German bass Gottlob Frick as Hagen, summoning the Gibichung vassals in the second act of Wagner's Gotterdammerung, is ever likely to forget the experience. His large, dark-coloured voice could fill the biggest auditorium - whether it be the Festspielhaus in Bayreuth, the Vienna State Opera, Covent Garden or the Metropolitan - with the greatest ease and without the sacrifice of its beautiful, black-velvet tone quality, even when the singer was in his sixties.

Equally impressive was his interpretation of Gurnemanz in Parsifal, as devout and spiritual as his Hagen was evil. Though best known for his Wagner roles, especially outside Germany and Austria, Frick was also a magnificent Mozart singer, counting Sarastro in Die Zauberflote and Osmin in Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail - another pair of dramatic opposites - among his finest roles. Yet one more facet of his many-sided talent encompassed comic parts such as Rocco, which he sang at Covent Garden in the memorable performances of Fidelio conducted and directed by Otto Klemperer, and Kecal, the marriage broker in The Bartered Bride.

Gottlob Frick was born in Oelbronn, a village in Wurtemberg, where his father was head forester. The youngest of 13 children, he sang in the local church choir, but had no formal training at a musical academy. He was, however, a frequent visitor to the Stuttgart High School of Music, where Fritz Windgassen (father of the celebrated tenor Wolfgang Windgassen), was in charge of the opera class, which happened to have no bass pupils at the time. At the age of 21 Frick joined the chorus at the Stuttgart Opera; three years later, in 1930, he was auditioned by Siegfried Wagner, then in his final season as director of the Bayreuth Festival. The young bass was engaged to sing small parts. From 1931 to 1934, he studied privately in Stuttgart with Julius Neudorffer-Opitz, a heroic baritone who had had a successful career there.

Frick made his debut in 1934 at Coburg, singing Daland in Der fliegende Hollander. He moved to Freiburg-im-Breslau and then to Konigsberg, in East Prussia, where he was heard by Karl Bohm, at that time music director of the Dresden State Opera, who engaged him on the spot. Frick remained in Dresden for more than 10 years, from 1939 to 1950, learning and singing an enormous repertory. This included Sarastro, Osmin and the Commendatore; Caspar in Der Freischutz, one of his most effective roles; Gremin in Eugene Onegin and Pimen in Boris Godunov; King Philip in Verdi's Don Carlos, which he always claimed as his favourite part, and the Father Superior in La forza del destino. He scored great successes as Falstaff in Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor and in two comic roles in operas by Lortzing: Burgomaster Van Bett in Zar und Zimmermann and Baculus in Der Wildschutz.

At Dresden in 1942 Frick created Caliban in Die Zauberinsel, Heinrich Sutermeister's operatic version of The Tempest, and he also sang the Peasant in Carl Orff's Die Kluge. After the end of the Second World War, in 1950, Frick moved to the Stadtische Oper in West Berlin. Then in 1953 he became a member both of the Vienna State Opera and of the Bavarian State Opera in Munich. He had already sung the Landgrave in Tannhauser at La Scala in 1950, and made his Covent Garden debut in 1951, singing Fafner, Hunding and Hagen in two cycles of The Ring. It was at this point that Wagner began to assume an important place in his career. He continued to sing other roles, both old and new; for instance, at Salzburg in 1955 he gave a superbly authoritative performance of Pope Pius IV in Hans Erich Pfitzner's Palestrina and also took part in the world premiere of Werner Egk's Irische Legende (based on WB Yeats's play Countess Cathleen).

In 1957 Frick returned to Bayreuth, where he offered a warmhearted Pogner in Die Meistersinger, and to Covent Garden where for the next decade he sang nearly every season, as Fafner, Hunding and Hagen in The Ring, as Gurnemanz, Rocco and Daland. At Bayreuth from 1960 to 1964 he sang Fasolt, Hunding and Hagen, while in his only season at the Metropolitan, 1961-62, he sang Fafner (both in Rheingold and Siegfried), Hunding and Hagen in four cycles, giving 16 performances in less than six weeks, a real feat of endurance. His other Wagner roles included King Mark and King Henry the Fowler.

After a particularly tiring Ring cycle in Munich in January 1970, Frick announced his retirement from the opera house. He continued to sing in concert for some years, and made occasional operatic appearances in Stuttgart, Vienna or Munich. In 1971 he sang Gurnemanz at Covent Garden, replacing a sick colleague at short notice. The fabulous voice was still there, and the occasion was highly emotive for those in the audience who had first heard the bass on the same stage 20 years before. He recorded nearly all his Mozart and Wagner characterisations, some of them twice, while many of his other roles comic and serious, are also available on disc. Die Freischutz and Fidelio are particularly true to life.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?