6 March 2017
Kurt Moll, 79, German Bass Whose Five-Decade Career Played Out on Major European and North American Stages, has Died
GERMAN BASS KURT MOLL, 79, whose forty-five year career took him from Europe’s most important opera houses and concert stages to the stage of the Met, where he sang nearly 130 performances of roles that included Hermann in Tannhäuser, Osmin in Entführung aus dem Serail, Ochs in Rosenkavalier and Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte, has died.
Moll, who retired from the stage in 2006, died in Cologne. A cause of death has not been announced.
Born in Buir, Germany, Moll studied at Cologne’s Hochschule für Musik and later went on to study privately with Emmy Mueller. After graduating, Moll joined the Cologne Opera and stayed in the theater’s ensemble until 1961, when he made his principal-role debut singing Lodovico in Aachen performances of Otello. He continued to sing at regional German theaters in the early 1960s, and, in 1968, Moll made his Bayreuth debut as the Night Watchman in performances of Meistersinger. He joined the Hamburg State Opera as a fest artist in 1970, and, during that decade, the bass became a regular on a number of major European stages. In 1974, Moll made his La Scala debut as King Marke, and, in 1977, he made his Covent Garden debut as Caspar in Götz Friedrich’s production of Der Freischütz.
In 1974, Moll made his United States debut singing Gurnemanz—something of a signature role—in San Francisco Opera performances of Parsifal, and, four years later, under the baton of James Levine, he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Hermann in performances of Tannhäuser.
With an exceptional basso profondo that proved as remarkable for its easy production as its velvet timbre, Moll made a sympathetic figure out of roles such as Baron Ochs, Osmin, King Marke and Sarastro. Still, the bass avoided flashier roles in deference to an understanding of his instrument; he repeatedly turned down offers to sing Wotan and Hans Sachs, believing that the higher tessitura might lead him to strain and damage his voice.
Moll left a robust recorded legacy, with his Ochs appearing in no fewer than seven complete recordings of Rosenkavalier, and his interpretations of Sarastro and King Marke having been recorded six times apiece. Moll gave particular credit to his work with Herbert von Karajan, who in 1984 conducted the bass’s Gurnemanz and Ochs in recordings of Parsifal and Rosenkavalier.
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