Obituary: German Baritone Günther Leib Dies at 96

By Francisco Salazar

On March 3, 2024, German baritone Günther Leib died at 96.

Born on April 12, 2024 in Gotha, Leib studied violin at the age of seven and continued his studies following World War II at the State Conservatory in Erfurt.He began his career as a violinist in 1949 with the Gotha Municipal Orchestra but eventually obtained an interest in opera and began studying voice privately before enrolling in the Weimar Conservatory. He graduated in 1952 with a diploma in opera and concert singing and music pedagogy.

He went on to make his stage debut in 1952 in Köthen as Bartolo in Rossini’s “Il barbiere di Siviglia.” His first engagement came in Köthen, Meiningen, and Nordhausen and that was followed by his debut at the Dresden State Opera in 1957 where he became an ensemble member.

Then in 1961, he became an ensemble member of the Berlin State Opera. He also went on to tour in Italy, Egypt, and Great Britain.

In 1976, he made his Metropolitan Opera as Beckmesser in “Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.” With the New York theater, he only sang six times.

He went on to also sing at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Paris Opera, and the opera houses of Budapest, Prague, Sofia, Hamburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm, among others.

Outside of his performance career, Leib also taught between 1964 and 1976, at Carl Maria v. Weber Musikhochschule in Dresden. He also taught at the Musikhochschule of Berlin.

Leib went on to record several albums including complete opera and oratorio recordings on Eterna, Supraphon, and Deutsche Grammophon.