Friedrich Karl Otto Wunderlich was born in Kusel, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany, on September 26, 1930 to a musical family; his father was a conductor and his mother was a violinist. He directed his own dance band to earn money to support his vocal studies at the Freiburg Musikhochschule. He appeared in a student production of "Die Zauberflöte" by Mozart in the leading role of Tamino in 1954 and was hired by the Stuttgart Opera in 1955. He sang some smaller parts, then as his first leading part again sang Tamino. He remained with Stuttgart until he was hired by the Frankfurt Opera company, staying there from 1958 to 1960. He first appeared in the Salzburg Festival in 1959, where he sang the part of Henry in Richard Strauss's "Die schweigsame Frau." He became a member of the Munich Opera in 1960, and from 1962 also was a regular at the Vienna State Opera.
He quickly earned a reputation as a great lyric tenor, perhaps the leading German lyric tenor in the middle part of the twentieth century. He had a clear, strong, tenor voice, which he used in a pleasingly unaffected manner, with a nice attention to style. While he became internationally famous in his Mozart parts, he also expanded to the lyrical Verdian repertory, such as Alfredo in "La Traviata," and similar parts such as Lensky in Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin." He was adventurous in his repertory, playing the role of Tiresias in the first performance of Carl Orff's "Oedipus der Tyrann" in Stuttgart in 1959, and sang the part of Christoph in Werner Egk's "Die Verlobung in San Domingo" in Munich in 1962. He contemplated expanding further, into the lyrical Wagnerian roles. This was not to be, as he died in an accident at his home in Heidelberg on September 17, 1966. His last appearance was as Tamino when the Stuttgart Opera visited the Edinburgh Festival earlier that summer. ~ Joseph Stevenson