Initially intending to become a chemist, Sotin also studied singing with Friedrich Wilhelm Hetzel and then with Dieter Jacob at the Dortmund Music High School. He made his operatic stage debut in 1962 at Essen as the Police Commissioner / Der Rosenkavalier and joined the Hamburg State Opera in 1964, at first taking small parts but soon graduating to almost all the principal bass roles in the company’s repertoire. Those for which he became best-known included Sarastro / Die Zauberflöte, King Mark / Tristan und Isolde, the Landgrave / Tannhäuser, Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Gurnemanz / Parsifal, Hunding / Die Walküre, Baron Ochs / Der Rosenkavalier and (later in his career) Wotan / Der Ring des Nibelungen. While at Hamburg Sotin took part in many first performances, including Jakobowsky und der Oberst (Klebe, 1965), Zwischenfälle bei einer Notlandung (1966, Blacher), Arden muss sterben (Goehr, 1967), Die Teufel von Loudun (Penderecki, 1969), Der Belagerungszustand (Kelemen, 1970) and Ein Stern geht auf aus Jaakob (1970, Burkhard).
Sotin’s international career took off in 1970 when he appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival as Sarastro. He made his American debut in 1971 with the Chicago Lyric Opera as the Grand Inquisitor / Don Carlo (opposite Nicolai Ghiaurov as Philip II) and as Fafner / Das Rheingold. At the Metropolitan Opera, New York he appeared for the first time in the autumn of 1972 as Sarastro, followed by Fafner / Siegfried and Hunding, the last two conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. He had already sung under Leinsdorf that summer, when he made his Bayreuth Festival debut as the Landgrave in Götz Friedrich’s controversial new production of Tannhäuser, as well as Titurel / Parsifal and Fafner / Der Ring des Nibelungen. Sotin became a mainstay at Bayreuth, returning as Titurel and Fafner (1973), the Landgrave (1973–1974, 1977–1978, 1985, 1995), Pogner (1973–1975), Gurnemanz (1975–1985, 1987–1993, 1995, 1998), Wotan (1976), The Wanderer / Siegfried (1976, 1978), King Henry/ Lohengrin (1979–1981, 1993), Daland / Der fliegende Holländer (1990–1993) and Hunding (1994–1995).
At the Vienna State Opera Sotin first sang in 1973 as King Mark and made his debut at the Royal Opera House, London as Hunding in 1974, returning subsequently to sing Baron Ochs (1975, 1983, 1987) and Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1982, 1983). He made his debut at La Scala, Milan as Baron Ochs in 1976 and returned to the Met in 1987 as Gurnemanz, Lodovico / Otello, Wotan / Das Rheingold and Die Walküre (all 1987), Wotan / Siegfried (1988), Prince Gremin / Eugene Onegin (1989), Sarastro (1991), Rocco / Fidelio (1993) and finally Pogner (1998). He also sang at the Paris Opera, the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires and at the leading German opera houses.
In 1992 Sotin became a professor at the Cologne Music High School and his retirement from the operatic stage was celebrated in 2012 at the Wagner Festival at Wels, Austria. He was a notable concert performer, for instance in major works such as Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis.
Sotin stood out as one of the leading basses of his generation, combining a large, smooth voice with an engaging stage presence.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).