Born: July 3, 1939
Brigitte Fassbaender is a prominent mezzo-soprano known for her acclaimed performances of the standard opera repertoire. Born in Berlin, in 1939, she had a childhood dream of becoming an actress, just her like mother, the film star Sabine Peters. As she realized how good her singing voice was, Fassbaender auditioned for the Nuremberg Conservatory, where her father, the famous baritone Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender taught. She studied with her father from 1957 until 1961, and in 1961 made her debut at the Bavarian State Opera as a Page in Lohengrin. However, she considers Nicklaus in Les contes d'Hoffmann her debut role; it was her first truly solo part. A 1962 telecast of Eugene Onegin with Fritz Wunderlich, in which she sang Olga, has been preserved. She sang minor roles for several years, and in 1965 got her big break when she was assigned the role of Clarice in Rossini's La pietra del paragone. She also sang at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf-Duisburg, Stuttgart, and Frankfurt am Main. In 1971, she sang Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier for her debut at London's Covent Garden. This role also served for her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, in 1974. Because of her admirable figure she was always in demand for trouser roles such as Octavian, Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro, Sextus in La Clemenza di Tito, and Prince Orlovsky in Die Fledermaus. At the Salzburg Festival she sang Dorabella in Così fan tutte from 1972 until 1978; in 1989, she returned as Klytemnestra in Elektra. She also appeared there as Eboli in Don Carlos and Amneris in Aida, under the direction of Karajan. In 1983 and 1984, she sang Waltraute in Götterdämmerung, at Bayreuth. At Vienna, in 1976, Fassbaender sang in the world premiere of Einem's "Kabale und Liebe." Her career took her to the major opera houses, including Milan, Tokyo, Paris, San Francisco, and Geneva. She made each of her characters a living entity, embellishing them with touches which made them unique. She was a favored singer of many conductors, including Herbert von Karajan and Carlos Kleiber. Fassbaender was also a highly esteemed recitalist and concert performer. She was most successful with narrative songs, particularly when she had the opportunity to tell a complete story and create one or more characters. In her performances, Fassbaender respected the dramatic and musical needs of a composition, without allowing either to overpower her interpretation. She was especially admired for her interpretation of Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde and Brahms' Alto Rhapsody. Her lieder recitals were always eagerly anticipated, particularly her performances of Schubert and Schumann. In 1987, Fassbaender's Deutsche Grammophon recording of songs by Liszt and Strauss brought her a Grammophone Award. Fassbaender's other critically acclaimed recordings include Schubert's Winterreise, Karl Loewe's Frauenliebe, and Die Schöne Magelone by Brahms. She appeared less often in oratorios, because of her busy opera schedule, however, remained in demand for works of Bach, Rossini, and Mendelssohn. As she cut back singing in opera houses, she began a second career as a stage director, beginning at Coburg with Rossini's La Cenerentola. Since that time, she has staged many operas, including Der Rosenkavalier and Franz Schreker's Der ferne Klang. Having retired as an opera singer, she teaches vocal music at the Musikhochscule in Munich.