Kurt Moll played cello and guitar in his youth and sang in his school choir. He went on to study singing both at the Cologne Conservatory and with Emmy Müller at Krefeld. While still a student he sang with the Cologne Opera and made his formal operatic stage debut in 1961 as Lodovico / Otello with the Aachen Opera, of which he was a member from 1961 to 1964; subsequently he sang with the companies at Mainz, (1964–1965), Wuppertal, (1965–1967) and Cologne (1967–1970).
At the Bayreuth Festival Moll’s first appearance was in 1968, as the Night Watchman / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Later roles at Bayreuth included Fafner / Der Ring des Nibelungen (1972, 1974–1975), King Mark / Tristan und Isolde (1974–1976) and Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (1975). He first sang with the Hamburg Opera in 1969 and joined this company the following year, when he also made his debut at the Salzburg Festival (as Sarastro / Die Zauberflöte). Moll became a constant presence at Salzburg, singing among many roles Osmin / Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1971–1974), Baron Ochs / Der Rosenkavalier (1978–1979, 1983–1984), Dr Bartolo / Le nozze di Figaro (1987) and Seneca / L’incoronazione di Poppea (1993). It was with Osmin that Moll made his debut at La Scala, Milan in 1972. In the same year he first appeared at the Paris Opera, as Dr Bartolo and Gurnemanz / Parsifal, and at the Vienna State Opera.
Following a highly successful debut at the Bavarian State Opera, Munich in 1973, Moll sang henceforth predominantly at Berlin, Munich and Vienna; but he also appeared at the Royal Opera House, London: firstly in 1977 as Kaspar / Der Freischütz and returning as Gurnemanz (1979, 1980), Osmin (1987), Ochs (1989, 1995), Daland / Der fliegende Holländer (2000) and Pope Pius IV / Palestrina (2001).
In America Moll’s debut was with the San Francisco Opera in 1974 as Gurnemanz. He first sang at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978, as the Landgrave / Tannhäuser, returning frequently as Rocco / Fidelio and Sparafucile / Rigoletto (both 1978), Lodovico, Osmin (both 1979), Ochs (1982), Gurnemanz (1985), the Commendatore / Don Giovanni (1990), Sarastro (1991), and Dr Bartolo (1992). His final appearance at the Met came in 2006 at a Mozart Gala conducted by James Levine.
From the early 1980s Moll began to perform Russian roles, first singing Pimen / Boris Godunov at the Vienna State Opera in 1982, adding the title role of that opera to his repertoire in 1983 (also at the Vienna State Opera) and enjoying success as Prince Gremin / Eugen Onegin at the Paris Opera in 1996.
Suggestions that he sing Wotan and Hans Sachs were repeatedly rejected by Moll on the grounds that these roles might damage his voice. His performance as Gurnemanz in Chicago in 1997 won praise and his operatic farewell came in 2006 at the Munich Festival, as the Night Watchman. Moll had begun to teach at the Cologne Conservatory in 1992 and continued to be active giving masterclasses.
Moll’s sensitivity to the text made him one of the foremost exponents of Wagner of his generation; and he credited Herbert von Karajan, with whom he recorded both Gurnemanz and Ochs, for guiding him to many of his most telling insights. Also a distinguished concert and lieder singer, notably championing the songs of Carl Löwe, he possessed a rich, dark voice and sang every note of his roles, even the very lowest for Osmin.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).