Opera For Beginners

Artist Profile: Brigitte Fassbaender, From Mezzo To Arts Administrator

Mezzo Brigitte Fassbaender, born on July 3, 1939, was one singing actress who made a smooth transition to working as an administrator in the opera world.

She noted that she actually didn’t fall in love with music initially, but was “obsessed” with the theater and the hopes of becoming an actress. She was the daughter of Sabine Peters, a screen actress, and baritone Will Domgraf-Fassbaender. She actually began her studies with her father at the Nuremberg Conservatory before joining the Bayerische Staatsoper in 1961.

Her time in Munich proved crucial as it launched her international career, the mezzo singing all around the world.

Once her singing career was at an end, she turned to directing and even wrote the book and texts for two musicals. She was an opera director at the Staatstheater Braunschweig for two years and then moved into administrative positions at the Tiroler Landestheater.

In 2011, the French government made her a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur. She is the director of the Richard Strauss Festival in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Major Roles

Fassbaender was renowned for a number of “pants roles” including Prince Orlofsky in “Die Fledermaus,” and Octavian in “Die Rosenkavalier.” She appeared in televised recordings of both roles, both under the direction of Carlos Kleiber, who was a frequent collaborator of hers.

Per a review of her Orlofsky from Music Web, “Brigitte Fassbaender is a celebrated Prince Orlofsky, often regarded without peer in the role – a brilliant male impersonation. His (her) drinking songs are heady, full of hedonistic joie de vivre.”

She is also a renowned interpreter of “Winterreise.”

Watch and Listen 

Here is a recording of her “Winterreise.”

And here is a peak at her Prince Orlofsky.

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