Josef Greindl

Josef Greindl studied singing at the Munich Academy of Music from 1932 to 1936 with Paul Bender and Anna Bahr-Mildenburg and made his operatic stage debut in 1936 at Krefeld, as Hunding / Die Walküre. He was a member of the Krefeld ensemble until 1938 when he moved to Düsseldorf, where he sang in the first performance of Ottmar Gerster’s Die Hexe von Passau in 1941.

In 1939 Greindl joined the Nazi Party and at the invitation of Heinz Tietjen became a member of the Berlin State Opera in 1942, having sung there in another first performance during 1941, of Othmar Schoeck’s Das Schloss Dürande. He moved across to the Berlin Städtische Oper (later the Deutsche Oper) in 1948, the year in which he sang in their first performance of Werner Egk’s Circe, and remained a member of this company until 1970, singing a total of 1,369 performances. He was in parallel a member of the Vienna State Opera from 1956 until 1969, continuing to appear there regularly as a guest until 1986, and also sang as a guest at the Hamburg State Opera between 1958 and 1965.

Although Greindl was primarily active in Berlin, Vienna and Hamburg, he enjoyed a distinguished career elsewhere. He first sang at the Bayreuth Festival in 1943 as Pogner / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and his final performance there was as Hagen / Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1969. In the intervening years he also sang Hans Sachs / Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the Landgrave / Tannhäuser, Daland / Der fliegende Holländer, King Henry / Lohengrin, King Mark / Tristan und Isolde and both Gurnemanz and Titurel / Parsifal; while in the Ring he undertook Fafner, Fasolt and the Wanderer.

At the Salzburg Festival Greindl appeared for the first time in 1949, participating in the first performance of Carl Orff’s Antigonae and singing Sarastro / Die Zauberflöte, which he repeated annually until 1952. He expanded his Salzburg repertoire in 1950 to include Rocco / Fidelio and the Commendatore / Don Giovanni. His international appearances were also at a high level and included the Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires (1950, 1951 and 1954 with Pogner and the Commendatore); La Scala, Milan (Gurnemanz 1951, Pogner 1952, Hagen 1954 and King Mark 1957); the Paris Opera (the Ring 1955, Rocco 1960, Hagen 1962 and 1967); as well as Brussels, Lisbon, Marseilles and Venice. At the Metropolitan Opera, New York Greindl appeared in two roles only: King Henry and Pogner during the 1952–1953 season. Later American visits included Chicago, (Daland and Alvise / La Gioconda, 1959) and San Francisco (King Mark and Baron Ochs / Der Rosenkavalier, 1967).

Further significant performances included the first staged production of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin in 1959; the premiere of Aribert Reimann’s opera Melusine at the Schwetzingen Festival in 1971; the first performance of Carl Orff’s De temporum fine Comoedia at the Salzburg Festival in 1973; and Count Waldner / Arabella at the Vienna State Opera in 1981, the first time Greindl had sung this role.

His large repertoire also included Boris / Boris Godunov, Plunkett / Martha, Pope Pius / Palestrina, Orest / Elektra, Kecal / The Bartered Bride, Padre Guardiano / La forza del destino, King Philip / Don Carlo, Sparafucile / Rigoletto, Don Magnifico / La Cenerentola, Abu Hassan / Der Barbier von Bagdad (Cornelius), Schigolch / Lulu and Lortzing’s Stadinger / Der Waffenschmied and Baculus / Der Wildschütz. Greindl taught at the Music High School of Saarbrücken from 1961 and in 1973 was appointed a professor at the Music High School in Vienna.

Although having a wide vibrato for a bass, Greindl was able to use this to masterly effect both vocally and dramatically. He projected a formidable presence on stage despite not being a large man physically. His art is preserved on many recordings, both from the studio and from live performances.

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