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Josef Greindl

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Josef Greindl, with a voice mellower and less cutting than those of Gottlob Frick or Kurt Böhme, nonetheless became a dominant presence in the heaviest German bass roles during the 1950s and 1960s. A wide vibrato bothered some listeners who were sensitive to such matters, but Greindl was a savvy enough artist to subdue the effect in all but the most sustained passages and he was a canny presence. His Hagen exuded evil, while his Sarastro had a warmth and dignity that clarified the role as few others did. His occasional ventures into Italian opera largely took place in Germany and primarily at a time in which Italian opera was sung there in the vernacular. Greindl sang the leading bass roles in two essential Ring cycles preserved on disc, first under Furtwängler in 1953 and under Clemens Krauss at Bayreuth in 1954. Studies with bass Paul Bender, a former leading artist in Munich, and Wagnerian soprano Anna Bahr-Mildenburg prepared Greindl for his debut as Hunding in a 1936 Krefeld production. From 1938 to 1942, the young bass was engaged at Düsseldorf. In 1942, Greindl began a long association with Berlin, first at the Staatsoper (until 1949) and thereafter at the Berlin's Städtische Oper. His debut at the Bayreuth Festival came as Pogner in 1943, but his prominent years there began in earnest in 1951. Concentrating his career in Europe, Greindl spent only one season at the Metropolitan Opera: in 1952, Heinrich and Pogner sufficed for his New York opera appearances. Later, however, he sang in Chicago, where his Daland and Alvise (in Italian, of course) were heard at the Lyric Opera in 1959. San Francisco heard him only in 1967 when his King Marke was described as "wobbly," although his Baron Ochs opposite Régine Crespin's Marschallin was found more satisfactory. In Berlin, the bass was much admired for his Boris Godunov. In the latter years of his Bayreuth affiliation, he abandoned Pogner for Hans Sachs, managing the tiring tessitura and enormous length of the role with skill and creating a positive portrait of the master cobbler. In 1973, Greindl was appointed a professor of singing at Vienna's Hochschule für Musik.

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