Obituary: Karl Ridderbusch

Karl Ridderbusch was a German bass with a magnificently resonant, dark-coloured voice, the kind of singer who is the mainstay of productions of Wagner's Ring cycle the world over.

He duly sang Fasolt, Hunding, Fafner and Hagen in Bayreuth, and several of those roles at the Metropolitan, New York and at Covent Garden, but his voice encompassed a very wide range, and he became particularly noted for his portrayal of Hans Sachs, which he sang at the Easter Festival in Salzburg under the baton of Herbert von Karajan.

Another favourite and much-admired role was that of Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier. An excellent actor, he sang a number of comic roles, including Rocco (Fidelio), Van Bett (Lortzing's Zar und Zimmermann), Nicolai's Falstaff, and Kecal (The Bartered Bride); he never, even as Ochs, overplayed the comic business, but in more dramatic parts such as Caspar (Der Freischutz) and Pizarro (Fidelio), not to mention his Wagner repertory, he used his fine voice and impressive height to even greater advantage.

Karl Ridderbusch was born in Recklinghausen in 1932. He trained to be an engineer, intending to work in his father's brick-works. His voice was discovered when he entered an amateur competition held by the Herzog Film Company in Dusseldorf, where he was heard by the tenor Rudolf Schock. Encouraged by Schock, who paid for part of his studies, first in Duisberg, then in Essen, Ridderbusch made his stage debut in 1961 at Munster.

In 1964 he moved to Essen, and in 1965 to the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Dusseldorf/Duisberg, which remained his home base for the remainder of his career, and where he sang Italian roles such as Henry VIII in Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Philip II in Don Carlos, as well as the German repertory.

Ridderbusch was soon giving guest performances, in Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt and Hamburg, in Dallas, where he sang Sarastro in Die Zauberflote in 1966, and at the Paris Opera, where he sang King Mark in Tristan und Isolde in 1967. That same year he made his Bayreuth debut as King Henry in Lohengrin, followed by Titurel in Parsifal and Fasolt in Das Rheingold, and his Metropolitan debut as Hunding in Die Walkure, later singing Fafner in Siegfried.

He made his Covent Garden debut in 1971 as Fasolt, Hunding and Fafner, returning as the Landgrave in Tannhauser in 1974.

Ridderbusch continued to appear at Bayreuth for the next decade, as Hunding, Hagen (Gotterdammerung), Daland (Der fliegende Hollander), and Pogner as well as Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger, which soon became his most successful role. He gave an especially fine performance at the Salzburg Easter Festival in 1974. He returned to the Metropolitan in 1976 as Sachs and sang the role at the Lyric Theatre, Chicago in 1977.

During the 1980s Gurnemanz in Parsifal became one of his most successful interpretations: he sang it at Turin (1982), Cologne (1983) and Rome (1984). Another finely characterised part was the Doctor in Wozzeck, which he sang in Munich in 1982, and repeated at Madrid in 1987, when I wrote that he was "a sinister Doctor, his colossal shoulders twitching with maniacal glee as he contemplated Wozzeck's moral and physical failings . . ."

The last time I heard Karl Ridderbusch was later that year, when he took the small role of the Podesta in Schreker's Die Gezeichneten in Dusseldorf. This production was taken to the Vienna Festival in 1989. He sang Falstaff in Die lustige Weiber von Windsor for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in 1991.

In his prime Riddersbusch made a great many recordings: he can be heard as Pogner and Sachs, King Mark, Titurel and Gurnemanz, as well as in his usual roles in Der Ring, and as Rocco. My own favourite among his recordings is Richard Strauss's Capriccio, in which he takes the part of the theatre director La Roche and in his great monologue both explains and demonstrates what opera is all about.

Karl Ridderbusch, opera singer: born Recklinghausen, Germany 29 May 1932; twice married (two sons, one daughter); died Wels, Austria 21 June 1997.

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

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments