Ferdinand Frantz

Ferdinand Frantz showed early signs of musicianship. As a boy he sang in a choral society in his home town of Kassel and at the age of sixteen was selected to sing a solo part. He then studied singing as a bass for four years and made his operatic stage debut in 1927 at the Kassel Staatstheater as Ortel / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Gradually he worked his way up the German operatic ladder, initially as a bass, with the opera companies of Halle, Chemnitz and Hamburg, where he took part in the creation of Winfried Zillig’s opera Das Opfer (1937). During World War II, between 1940 and 1942, Frantz sang at the Zoppot open-air opera festival as Daland / Der fliegende Holländer, the Landgrave / Tannhäuser and Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He also sang a wide variety of roles at the Vienna State Opera during 1940 and 1941.

Having joined the Bavarian State Opera in 1943 Frantz remained a member of this company for the rest of his life. By the time he arrived here he was moving into the bass-baritone repertoire and it was at Munich that he found international fame. After the war he appeared as a guest with the Dresden and Vienna State Operas, the Salzburg Festival (1948, Don Pizarro / Fidelio) and the Paris Opera (1950, Wotan / Der Ring des Nibelungen); and sang also at La Scala, Milan (Wotan) with Furtwängler in 1950.

Frantz made an immediate impression with his American debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York in December 1949 as Wotan / Die Walküre, quickly followed by Kurwenal and Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The following season he returned to sing Wotan, Kurwenal and Don Pizarro. His final season at the Met was 1954, when he sang Hermann / Tannhäuser and Gurnemanz / Parsifal as well as Wotan / Die Walküre.

During the autumn of 1953 Frantz first appeared in London. As a member of the visiting Bavarian State Opera, he sang at the Royal Opera House in Richard Strauss’s Die Liebe der Danae and returned to sing Wotan during 1954 in the Covent Garden Opera Company’s own Ring cycle. Throughout this period he continued to be active as a guest, appearing in Rome (1952), Florence and Monte Carlo (1953), Bologna (1954) and Barcelona (1955); and at the 1955 Salzburg Festival sang Morone in Pfitzner’s Palestrina.

Vocally Frantz proved to be a fine Wagnerian bass-baritone, possessing a strong bass register and a firm top, allied to great stamina; other roles in his repertoire included Escamillo / Carmen, Kaspar / Der Freischütz, Kontschak / Prince Igor, Méphistophélès / Faust (Gounod), Orest / Elektra and Sarastro / Die Zauberflöte, indicating his wide vocal range. Frantz was married to the soprano Helena Braun and his early and unexpected death was the result of a heart attack.

© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).