Gösta Winbergh

Gösta Winbergh


• 1943 2002


Although he had enjoyed a distinguished career lasting three decades, Gösta Winbergh died prematurely while still in excellent voice. Thorough training and conscientious attention to vocal health enabled the tenor to move from primacy in Mozart roles into spinto, dramatic, and even heroic roles during his final ten years. With a broad, handsome face and a trim, sturdy physique, Winbergh was valued for the strength and manliness he brought first to the Mozart repertory and, later, to such roles as Walter von Stolzing, Lohengrin, Parsifal, and in the higher tessitura of Strauss' Bacchus. In the final years allotted to him, he even undertook such heldentenor roles as Tristan, Siegmund, and Siegfried, bringing to these the same firm, steady beauty of tone that had marked his work in the lyric repertory. Few singers of any voice range have ever made such a far-ranging transition while avoiding deterioration in sound and steadiness.

Winbergh's exposure to music came early through his mother, a concert pianist. After a brief fling with pop music, the young man applied himself to serious music. Identified as having a promising voice, Winbergh was introduced to Martin Oehman, once a prominent Wagnerian before entering a second career as a teacher. Although Oehman had seemed a good choice (he listed Nicolai Gedda among his students), he died before Winbergh had completed a year's study. Shortly before his death, Oehman had referred the young tenor to Swedish baritone Erik Saedén, a respected artist and an advocate of placing the voice as naturally as possible. Following two years of vocal training, Winbergh joined the opera school in Stockholm and completed another two years of concentrated study.

Winbergh's professional stage debut in 1973 came in Göteborg, where he sang mostly lighter Romantic-period roles with occasional forays into operetta. After this solid experience, he was engaged by the Royal Opera in his native city and there began to specialize in Mozart, also undertaking concert work, both with orchestra and in recital. 1981 brought Winbergh to Zürich, where he stayed until 1986, establishing a residence where he remained even after he left the company. Soon, Winbergh had added Munich, Vienna, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Milan, Berlin, London, and many other major houses and numerous festivals to his schedule.

Although heavier roles were largely future dreams in the 1980s, Winbergh began exploring that repertory in 1992 with a Lohengrin at Zürich. Subsequently, he essayed Parsifal in Berlin (after a Stockholm trial), Tristan in Stockholm and Vienna, and Siegmund in Zürich. In the meantime, he had added Walter in Die Meistersinger (sung in several major theaters) Gherman in Pique Dame, and the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten (the latter two in Zürich).

Winbergh evinced little interest in contemporary opera, protesting that he was too decidedly a natural singer. His concern for maintaining a fresh voice led him to work with Nicolai Gedda for a number of years; even as he added the heaviest parts in the German repertory to his schedule, he retained a focused and unstrained top register for Strauss. His recorded Bacchus attests to that just as his ringing Florestan in an excellent Naxos recording of Fidelio melds lyric fluidity with dramatic strength. Winbergh was treasured by the finest conductors of his time. An artist of the first rank, he was also respected by his colleagues as a considerate, generous man.