Category Archives: Bassses

KIM BORG, Bass * 7 August 1919, Helsinki, Finland + 28 April 2000, Fredensborg Municipality, Denmark;

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KIM BORG (August 7, 1919 – April 28, 2000) was a Finnish bass.

An elegant artist with a firm, though not particularly large bass baritone, Kim Borg was heard most effectively in recital. His Metropolitan Opera debut appearances as Count Almaviva did not show him to advantage, for the best part of his voice lay somewhat lower and, when pushed for volume, the instrument could take on a brittle quality. In the smaller houses of Europe and on the concert stage, however, he was a commanding presence. His singing of the song literature, including the songs of Sibelius, was authoritative and finely nuanced and the frequent inclusion of one of Sarastro’s arias demonstrated his resonant lower register and unfailing legato. Borg was also a composer of some note, having written two symphonies, a contemporary setting of the Stabat Mater, some chamber music, and a number of songs.

Borg’s primary studies took place at Helsinki’s Sibelius Academy, although he later undertook further training in Vienna, Rome, and even New York. After initially presenting himself as a concert singer, he entered the realm of opera in 1951 with a debut as Colline in Denmark. During that same period, he was engaged by Walter Legge for the role of Rangoni in a recording of Boris Godunov to be made with Boris Christoff. The success of that recording afforded Borg international recognition. Subsequently, he was engaged by the Glyndebourne Festival where his Don Giovanni was received in 1956 as well-sung, but far too severe. Similar misjudgments about the suitability of roles thwarted what might have been a more fruitful Metropolitan career. Nonetheless, Borg made himself welcome in Stockholm, where he became a member of the Royal Opera in 1960. Another positive relationship was forged with Hamburg, where he appeared frequently.

Borg’s own Boris Godunov was a superb creation, one ideally tailored to his vocal gifts. In Europe, he confined himself largely to bass roles, including such deeper bass parts as Osmin, Baron Ochs, and Hagen. In 1980, Borg retired from the opera stage to concentrate on teaching at the Conservatory in Copenhagen, where he had become a professor of singing in 1972. During the years of his prime, Borg recorded often, most frequently song recitals and oratorios. Dvorák’s Stabat Mater and Haydn’s Creation are both worthy examples of his art.

Artist Biography by Erik Eriksson

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Posted by on August 8, 2017 in Bassses


LUDWIG WEBER, Bass * 29 July 29 1899, Vienna, Austria + 09 December 1974, Vienna, Austria;

The Austrian bass, Ludwig Weber, initially planned to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher, but he also studied painting with Alfred Roller at the Wiener Kunstgewerbeschule. He discovered his vocal promise when he sang in the choir of the Wiener Oratorien-Vereinigung and decided to pursue an opera career. In 1919 he began studies in Vienna with Alfred Borrotau, a well respected teacher.

In 1920 Ludwig Weber made his professional debut as Fiorello in The Barber of Seville at the Vienna Volksoper, where he sang for a few years in smaller roles. Possessing one of the largest dark-and-cavernous-type bass voices of the 20th century, Weber was in equally high demand for villainous roles and noble characters. In the mid 1920’s was singing in mid size to leading roles with smaller companies throughout Germany. From 1925 to 1927 he was the first bass singer at the Stadttheater of Wuppertal; from 1927 to 1932 he was engaged at the opera house of Düsseldorf. In 1930, he appeared as a guest has performed at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris in Wagner’s operas conducted by Franz von Hoesslin as Hunding and Fafner as Der Ring des Nibelungen. In 1932-1933, he sang at the Opera House of Cologne. After a successful appearance at the Munich Wagner Festival of 1931 he became in 1933 a member of the Staatsoper of Munich, where he remained until 1945, where he participated, among other things, in 1934 in the premiere of the opera Lucedia by Vittorio Giannini and on July 14, 1938 in the premiere of opera ” Der Friedenstag by Richard Strauss.

During his period in Munich, Ludwig Weber began to receive invitations to sing abroad. In 1936 he joined the Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, where he sang numerous roles for several years (London (1936-1939, 1947 and 1950-1951, including roles as Boris Godunov, Pogner, Gurnemanz, Hunding, Hagen, Daland, King Mark, Osmin, Rocco, and Commendatore. He appeared as a guest at Milan’s La Scala (1938-1939, 1942, 1948, 1950), at the Grand Opéra Paris (1948-1950, 1953), at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires; he had great successes in Amsterdam and Brussels; and he also worked appeared at the Maggio Musicale in Florence.

In 1945 Ludwig Weber became a member of the Wiener Staatsoper, where he sang a wide repertoire for the next two decades. In the opening performance of the rebuilt Wiener Staatsoper, on May 11, 1955, he sang Rocco in Fidelio. Huge success he had at the Salzburg Festival. Here he sang in 1939 and 1946 the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, in 1941 Sarastro, in 1945 Osmin, in 1946-1947 Bartolo in The Marriage of Figaro, in addition to many concerts (Verdi’s Requiem in 1947) and in the premiere of Dantons Tod by G. von Einem on August 6, 1947. In the years 1951-1956, 1958 and 1960-1963 he was part of the Bayreuth Festival Ensemble, where he is remembered since as one of great Wagnerian bass singers. In Bayreuth, he sang e.g. Daland (1955-1956) in Fliegenden Holländer, Hagen (1951) and Fasolt (1951-1955, 1958) in Der Ring des Nibelungen, Gurnemanz (1951-1956, 1961) and Titurel (1961, 1963) in Parsifal, Pogner (1952-1953) and Kothner (1960-1961) in Meistersinger, König Heinrich in Lohengrin (1954), and in 1953-1954, the bass solo in the 9th Symphony by L.v. Beethoven.

Ludwig Weber had a powerful, yet musically well educated voice. As a bass singer he became particularly associated with the Wagner roles. In roles as Daland in Fliegenden Holländer, Hagen and Gurnemanz, but also as Rocco in Fidelio he was unmatched in his generation. The title role in Boris Godunov was one of his favourites, and excerpts (sung in German) survive from a performance broadcast on radio. He sang the role in multiple houses including Covent Garden in 1950. He was also famous as Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, as Kezal in The Bartered Bride, as Kaspar in Freischütz, as Barak in Frau ohne Schatten and as Wozzeck. He was also a celebrated oratorios and Lieder singer.

Since 1961 Ludwig Weber was Professor at the Salzburg Mozarteum, and honorary member of the Wiener Staatsoper. Ludwig Weber retired from the stage in 1965.

Ludwig Weber participate in numerous recordings on labels as Pathé (1930), Philips, Columbia (Zauberflöte), Vox (Fliegender Holländer, Rosenkavalier), Acanta (Aida), und Decca (Rosenkavalier, Salome, Fliegender Holländer, Parsifal). Live recordings have been released on Discocorp Don Giovanni from 1955 and on the same label Daphne by R. Strauss (conducted by Erich Kleiber at the Teatro Colón Buenos Aires, 1948); on Murray Hill Fafner in Siegfried (Scala, Milan, 1950); on Cetra Opera Live Fliegender Holländer and Tristan (Bayreuth 1955 and 1952); on Melodram Fasolt in Rheingold (Bayreuth, 1952) and Fidelio (Vienna, 1955); on Foyer (Rheingold, Bayreuth, 1953) and on Fonit-Cetra (Walküre, Scala, 1950).

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Posted by on July 29, 2017 in Bassses


CESARE SIEPE, Bass * 10 February 1923, Milan, Italy + 5 July 2010, Atlanta, Georgia, United States;

Opera Singer. A bass who sang much of the repertoire of his range, he shall be remembered as perhaps his generation’s foremost interpreter of the title role in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni”. Raised in Milan, his vocal technique was essentially self taught, though he spent some time in a local conservatory before making his 1941 professional debut at Schio, Italy, as the hired killer Sparafucile from Giuseppe Verdi’s “Rigoletto”. Siepi fled to Switzerland during World War II to avoid fighting for Mussolini, then thru the late 1940s was a regular at La Scala Milano where he refined his signature pieces, “Don Giovanni”, Mephistopheles in Charles Gounod’s “Faust”, Don Basilio in Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, and King Philip II from Verdi’s “Don Carlo”. His debut at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, where he eventually sang 379 times in 18 roles, came on opening night of the 1950 season in a performance of “Don Carlo” from which General Manager Rudolf Bing had, caving in to political pressure, removed Bulgarian Boris Christoff. He was first seen at Covent Garden, London, that same year, then made his Salzburg Festival bow in 1953 in a classic production of “Don Giovanni” conducted by Maestro Wilhelm Furtwangler that has been preserved on both disc and video. The vehicle for his 1954 San Francisco Opera debut was Padre Guardiano from Verdi’s “La Forza del Destino”; a frequent guest at the Vienna State Opera, he was Don Giovanni for a controversial 1967 production which emphasized the piece’s comedic aspects. Over the years, he sang most of the roles expected of an Italian basso, such as the title character of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”, Ramphis in Verdi’s “Aida” and Colline from Puccini’s “La Boheme”, and some not, like Gurnemanz in Wagner’s “Parsifal”, for which he learned German; inevitably in a long career there will be misadventures, and Siepi was at the center of a classic on a night when the elevator taking Don Giovanni to hell at the end of the opera got stuck halfway down and an audience member called out “Thank God! Hell’s full!”. He was to continue singing throughout the world in both opera and recital until his formal 1989 retirement from the stage, though he did make one last 1994 appearance in Vienna as Oroveso in Vincenzo Bellini’s “Norma”. Twice he was heard on Broadway, in the 1962 “Bravo Giovanni” and in 1979’s “Carmelina”, though the latter proved a flop. He died from complications of a stroke, leaving a quite large recorded legacy of both studio recordings, mostly on Decca, and of live performances. (bio by: Bob Hufford)

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Cesare Siepi and David Opatoshu

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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Bassses


MANFRED JUNGWIRTH, Bass * 04 June 1919 in St Pölten, Austria + 23 October 1999, Passau, Bavaria, Germany;

Manfred Jungwirth

Jungwirth, Manfred, Austrian bass; b. St. Polten, June 4, 1919. He studied voice in St. Polten, Vienna, Bucharest, Munich, and Berlin; entered the Univ. of Vienna to study medicine in 1937, but passed the examinations in voice, piano, and conducting instead (1940). He sang for German troops in Romania and Bulgaria (1941–45); made his operatic debut as Gounod’s Méphistophélès at the Bucharest Opera (1942), and then sang at the Innsbruck Landestheater (1945–47). In 1948 he was awarded his Ph.D. in musicology in Vienna and also won first prize in the Geneva voice competition; then sang in Zürich, Berlin, Hamburg, Paris, and London; he made regular appearances at the Frankfurt am Main Opera (1960–67) and the Vienna State Opera (from 1967). On Feb. 16, 1974, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in N.Y. as Baron Ochs, which became his most famous role.


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Posted by on June 5, 2017 in Bassses


BORIS CHRISTOFF, Bass * 18 May 1914 Plovdiv, Bulgaria + 28 June 1993 Rome, Italy;

Борис Христов. crop.jpg

Boris Christoff (Bulgarian: Борис Кирилов Христов, official transliteration Boris Kirilov Hristov pronounced [bɔrˈis ˈkirilɔf ˈxristɔf]; 18 May 1914 – 28 June 1993) was a Bulgarian opera singer, widely considered one of the greatest basses of the 20th century.

Born in Plovdiv, Christoff demonstrated early his singing talent and sang as a boy at the choir of the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Sofia. In the late 1930s he graduated in law and started a career as a magistrate. He continued singing in his spare time in the Gusla Chorus in Sofia, achieving an enormous success as the chorus soloist in 1940. Thanks to a government grant, Christoff left in May 1942 for Italy where he was tutored for two years in the core Italian bass repertoire by the great baritone of an earlier generation, Riccardo Stracciari.

Performance career
After several guest appearances and recitals in Austria in 1944 and 1945, Christoff returned to Italy in December 1945. He made his operatic debut as Colline in La bohème at Reggio Calabria on 12 March 1946. In following years Christoff appeared in a number of roles at Milan’s La Scala, Venice’s La Fenice, the Rome Opera, Covent Garden in London, the opera theatres in Naples, Barcelona, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro, etc.

In 1950 he was invited to sing at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City but was refused entry into the USA as a result of the McCarran Immigration Act, which banned citizens of Eastern bloc countries from entering the country. The role was instead filled by the young Italian basso, Cesare Siepi. After the restrictions were loosened, Christoff made an operatic debut in the United States in 1956 at the San Francisco Opera. He refused any further invitations to the Metropolitan and never appeared there. After a brief absence from the scene due to brain tumour surgery in 1964, Christoff resumed his career in 1965, though at a much slower pace. In 1967 he was allowed to return to Bulgaria for the first time since 1945, for the funeral of his mother.

In the 1970s Christoff on-stage performances were all but frequent.[clarification needed] He brought his career to an end with a final concert at the Accademia di Bulgaria in Rome on 22 June 1986. He died in Rome in 1993 and his body was returned to Bulgaria, where he was given a state funeral and buried in Sofia’s Alexander Nevsky Cathedral.

Voice, repertoire, character
Christoff had an excellent voice with a distinctive dark tone. Although it was not as large as some other bass voices, he had no trouble making an impact in big auditoria, like the San Francisco Opera. Owing to his stage presence and dramatic temperament, he was a worthy heir to the grand tradition of Slavonic basses exemplified by Fyodor Stravinsky, Lev Sibiriakov, Vladimir Kastorsky, Feodor Chaliapin, Alexander Kipnis and Mark Reizen, among others. He sang mostly in Verdi and the Russian repertoire, and was also a refined performer of vocal chamber music. Among his most famous roles were those of Tsar Boris (Mussorgsky – Boris Godunov), Philip II (Verdi – Don Carlo), Mephistopheles (Gounod – Faust and Boito – Mefistofele), Ivan Susanin (Glinka – A Life for the Tsar), Zaccaria (Verdi – Nabucco), Tsar Ivan (Rimsky-Korsakov – Ivan the Terrible), Dosifei (Mussorgsky – Khovanshchina), Gomez da Silva (Verdi – Ernani), Fiesco (Verdi – Simon Boccanegra), Attila (Verdi – Attila), Padre Guardiano (Verdi – La forza del destino), Galitzky and Kontchak (Borodin – Prince Igor) and others.

Christoff made studio recordings of eight operas (Don Carlo, Boris Godunov and Faust twice each) and numerous live recordings (radio or stage performances). He was much admired as song singer and he recorded more than 200 Russian songs by Mussorgsky (he was the first to record all his 63 songs), Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glinka, Borodin, Cui, Balakirev as well as traditional songs, mostly with piano accompaniment. He initiated the tradition of making studio recordings of Boris Godunov with the same basso singing three roles (Boris, Varlaam, Pimen).

While he was a grand performer on stage, Christoff had difficult off-stage relations with fellow singers and producers, which sometimes grew into public scandals. In 1955 he fell out with Maria Callas during the performances of Medea at the Rome Opera and in 1961 his contract with La Scala was terminated after an open conflict with fellow Bulgarian Nicolai Ghiaurov whom Christoff blamed for collaborating with the Bulgarian communist regime. Herbert von Karajan tried to make him sing the title role in Don Giovanni which would have been inappropriate for his range; this prompted him to sever relations with von Karajan.[citation needed]

He was the brother-in-law of the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi.

Many recordings are available. The following list contains just a few.

His complete songs by Mussorgsky are available, produced by EMI.
He recorded the Verdi Requiem 3 times, once under Tullio Serafin in Rome 1959, once with Herbert von Karajan and once with Bruno Bartoletti.
Two recordings of Boris Godunov are available with Christoff singing three roles: Boris, Pimen, and Father Varlaam.
Two performances in major Wagner roles are available, both sung in Italian: Gurnemanz in Parsifal conducted in Rome 1950 by Vittorio Gui, and Pogner the goldsmith in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, conducted (studio) by Lovro von Matačić in Torino 1962.
Lugano Recital 1976 [DVD]


A Monument of Boris Christoff near Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, Bulgaria

Resulta ng larawan para sa Boris Christoff

Boris Christoff with his wife, 1960.

Boris Christoff at the age of four.

Boris Christoff with his mother at their home, Sofia, 1963.

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Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Bassses


RAFFAELE ARIÉ, Bass * 22 August 1920, Sofia + 17 March 1988, Switzerland;

Raffaele Arié (22 August 1920, Sofia – 17 March 1988, Switzerland) was a Bulgarian bass, particularly associated with the Italian and Russian repertories.

Arié studied first in his native city with C. Brambaroff, making his stage debut at the Sofia Opera in 1945. He then left for Italy to further his studies, and was a pupil of Riccardo Stracciari, Apollo Granforte and Carlo Tagliabue. He made his debut at La Scala in 1946, as the King in The Love for Three Oranges.

He sang widely in Italy, creating in Venice, the role of Trulove in The Rake’s Progress in 1951. He also appeared at the Vienna State Opera, the Salzburg Festival, the Paris Opéra, and the Aix-en-Provence Festival.

His roles included; Osmin, Commendatore, Sarastro, Méphistopheles, Varlaam, etc. He was especially admired as Fiesco, as both Filippo and Il grand Inquisitore in Don Carlo, and as Boris Godunov.

Arié possessed a deep, easily produced and fine-textured voice, he can be heard on record, as Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor, opposite Maria Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, Tito Gobbi, under Tullio Serafin.

Raffaele Arié in 1955

Raffaele Arié as Mephistoles in Gounod’s Faust

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Bassses


HERBERT ALSEN, Bass * 12 October 1906, Hildesheim, Germany + 25 October 1978, Vienna, Austria;

A legendary heldenbass and chamber singer, Herbert Alsen initially wanted to become a violinist and studied that instrument at the local Hildesheim School of Humanistic Studies. During his Gymnasium years, he was the concertmaster in the episcopal orchestra and played at Sunday masses. It wasn’t until his later music studies in Berlin that he discovered his voice. During the Haydn Jahr celebration of 1931-1932, Alsen toured as a member of the choir that performed that composer’s Die Jahreszeiten (The Seasons) and Die Schöpfung (The Creation) throughout half of Germany. When the tour reached Hamburg, he was immediately contracted to sing as first bass in several roles at Hagen in Westfalen. His debut was in the role of Rocco in Beethoven’s Fidelio, and that performance was followed with ten more parts during the first year of his engagement. After performances in Dessau and Wiesbaden, he received offers to sing in Hamburg and Vienna. In 1936, he gave his first performance at the Wiener Staatsoper. That same year, he sang the role of Komtur in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with Bruno Walter conducting, and the role of Pogner in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with Arturo Toscanini conducting. After two seasons with the Wiener Staatsoper he was engaged to appear at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. And afterward, he appeared on major opera stages, including La Scala, Covent Garden, Deutsche Staatsoper, and the Grand Opéra. He created more than 50 parts, the most popular of which were Gurnemanz in Wagner’s Parsifal, Sarastro in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), and Osmin in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction From the Seraglio). In 1955, Alsen vacationed with his wife Gisela and daughter Marina in Mörbisch, a small town then right on the border of the Iron Curtain. He described the place as a “lovely, friendly little spot with peasant houses and dozens of wine cellars.” Upon sighting the Mörbisch bay, he decided then and there to organize the Mörbischer Seefestspiele (Mörbisch Sea Festivals), which a mere two years later premiered with Johann Strauss’ Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron). In 1959 Alsen converted the Forchtenstein castle moat into a stage. Until his passing in 1978, he carried on his singing career between the two country festivals.

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Herbert Alsen Autograph

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Posted by on February 18, 2017 in Bassses

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