Born: February 19, 1897 Died: February 13, 1978
An ebullient, sometimes hyperkinetic interpreter of Mozart's Figaro, lyric baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender enjoyed an important career in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. Trim and handsome, he matched the requirements of Mozart's baritone roles with surpassing ease and was celebrated for his dramatic aptitude as well as his suave singing. While he primarily made his career on the Continent, his name achieved international luster from his appearances at the Glyndebourne Festival during that enterprise's infancy. In England, several of his Mozart creations were recorded in editions that have remained in the catalog ever since. Domgraf-Fassbaender began his studies by attending Cathedral School in Aachen with the intent of becoming a church musician. Later, he took voice lessons from Paul Bruns and Jacques Stückgold in Berlin, and later still, traveled to Milan to continue his studies with Giuseppe Borgatti. Mozart served for his debut in Aachen in 1922, although the role there was Count Almaviva in Le nozze di Figaro. Recognition of an exceptional voice and presence was not long in coming as he was subsequently engaged by Berlin's Deutsches Opernhaus, Stuttgart, and Düsseldorf before returning to Berlin in 1928 as the Staatsoper's principal lyric baritone. He remained with the company until 1948. The Glyndebourne Festival was born with a performance on May 28, 1934, of Mozart's Figaro and Domgraf-Fassbaender sang the title role. The other opera that first year was Così fan tutte, and in that production, Domgraf-Fassbaender was Guglielmo. Under the conducting of Fritz Busch and the stage direction of Carl Ebert, the baritone's performances took on a new degree of polish. Domgraf-Fassbaender remained with the fledgling company until 1937, missing only 1936 after having added Papageno to his gallery of portraits in 1935. In 1937, he sang Papageno at Salzburg with a stellar roster of colleagues under Toscanini's direction. Aside from the standard lyric repertory, Domgraf-Fassbaender achieved success in the title role of Werner Egk's Peer Gynt at the Berlin Staatsoper in 1937. In the post-WWII era, he sang at many of central Europe's major houses, later moving into stage production as his performing career drew to a close. His daughter, mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender, was also noted as a leading singer/actor.