Artist Profile: Famed Finnish Bass Matti Salminen

By David Salazar

Matti Salminen, born on July 7, 1945, is one of the great basses of the 20th and 21st century.

The Finnish artist kicked off his career singing Finnish tangos in nightclubs to earn money to take voice lessons. His experience with Finnish tangos led him to publish a book on the subject.

As a singer, he has enjoyed a career singing at all the major companies around the world including the Bayreuth Festival, the Zurich Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera, among others.

He also championed a number of Finnish operas, singing in the world premiere of Sallinen’s “Kunigas Lear” in 2000 and Jukka Linkola’s “Robin Hood.”

He has won two Grammy Awards for Best Opera Recording, an ICMA Lifetime Achievement Award, the Pro Finlandia Medal of the Order of the Lion of Finland, a is a “Kammersänger” in Berlin, Bavaria, and Austria.

Major Roles

Salminen sang a wide range of repertoire but is best-known for his work in the operas of Richard Wagner. He sang every major opera of the composer excelling as King Marke in “Tristan und Isolde,” Hagen in “Götterdämmerung,” and Fafner in “Das Rheingold” and “Siegfried.”

Aside from his work in Wagner, he was also a noted “Boris Godunov” and was famous for his interpretation of Sarastro in “Die Zauberflöte.”

Watch and Listen

Here he is as Wotan in “Die Walküre” alongside Birgit Nilsson.

And here he is in “Die Zauberflöte.”


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