The baritone Ingvar Wixell has died

James Inverne10th Oct 2011
Ingvar Wixell as Scarpia at the Deutsche Oper BerlinIngvar Wixell as Scarpia at the Deutsche Oper Berlin

Ingvar Wixell was a great baritone who defied conventional wisdom. Depending on one's perspective, he was either a Mozartian with a beefy fist to the voice, or a natural Scarpia whose inherent elegance, so insinuating in the Puccini, could be turned to a more classical bent.

The truth of course was that he was blessed with a highly versatile voice, soft-grained yet tough when it was needed to be. And, as can be seen from a riveting film of Tosca from the Verona Arena (with Wixell alongside Raina Kabaivanska and Giocomo Aragall) he was an accomplished actor. That versatility even extended to the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest where he represented his native Sweden (see the clip below).

If Wixell's alma mater was Stockhom's Royal Swedish Opera, and his home house became the Deutsche Oper in Berlin (whose ensemble he remained part of for some three decades) he was a truly international singer. Scarpia came to be a signature role (one, so rumour has it, that he latterly enjoyed singing because it didn't require too much time on stage) and one which he recorded for Sir Colin Davis, with Montserrat Caballé as his Tosca. Davis became a regular recording partner, for whom Wixell also recorded Don Giovanni, Count Almaviva, Renato in Un ballo in maschera and Marcello in La bohème. Other memorable sets include a rather Donizettian Il trovatore for Richard Bonynge alongside Dame Joan Sutherland and José Carreras (another regular colleague) and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's film of Rigoletto, with Pavarotti as the Duke and Wixell doing double honours in the title-role and as the count who curses him.

Hs last role was as the Music Teacher in Richard Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos, in his home town of Malmo.

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