Artist Profile: Wolfgang Windgassen, One of the Great Heldentenors of the 20th Century

By David Salazar

Wolfgang Windgassen, born on June 26, 1914, is one of the greatest heldentenors of all time.

He was actually born in France to two singers. His father Fritz Windgassen was a well-known heldentenor and his mother, Vali von der Osten, was a coloratura soprano. His aunt, Eva von der Osten, was the singer who created the role of Octavian in “Der Rosenkavalier.” She was also a Wagnerian soprano.

He made his formal debut as Pinkteron in “Madama Butterfly” and then went on to replace his father at the Stuttgart Opera Company as principal tenor.

In 1951, he was invited to reopen the Bayreuth Festival, where he would appear until 1970. His role debut in 1951 was as “Parsifal,” but he would take on every prominent Wagner role.

He died of a heart attack at the age of 60.

Signature Roles

Windgassen was one of the premiere dramatic tenors of his day, dominating the repertoire of Wagner like few other tenors. He was one of the finest interpreters of Siegfried of his day, being the first-choice for Wagner’s “Ring” for many companies.

He appears on many recordings of the Ring, including Georg Solti’s historic version. Other conducts that have recorded the Cycle with Windgassen include Clemens Krauss, Hans Knappertsbusch, Joseph Keilberth, and Karl Böhm.

Read More About Windgassen

A Look At Some of His Famous Wagner Recordings

Watch and Listen

Here is his famous performance of “Tristan und Isolde.”

And here is a moment from “Lohengrin,” another opera that he dominated in his best years.


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