Wenko Wenkoff

Picture of Wenko Wenkoff
Wenkoff was born on August 17, 1921 in Veliko Tarnovo (click on picture to enlarge).

He studied at a commercial high school, while helping at his father's textile business during his free time. When Wenkoff finished, he went to Vienna where he studied world trade at the University.

It is not known when Wenkoff discovered his love for opera, However, one evening of 1942, he is in front of the Staatsoper where Rigoletto is being performed that evening. He wanted to attend but how? He asked the concierge to tell the Bulgarian singer Pantschev that a young Bulgarian wants to see him.

Pantschev is already in costume, when Wenkoff asks him for a free ticket. Pantschev has already given away his free tickets, but invites Wenkoff to visit him the next day.

The next day, Wenkoff tells Pantschev that he wants to be an opera singer and that he is a tenor. Pantschev sits down at the piano and asks Wenkoff to sing. Pantschev is very surprised as he hears a natural voice with wonderful high notes.

Pantschev introduces him to his teacher who encourages him to study. He becomes a student of Marga Wissmann, who is impressed by his natural singing. From that time on, he spends his free evenings at the Volksoper or Staatsoper, and studies hard.

After preparing the Nemorino and Rodolfo arias, Marga Wissmann introduces him to Karl Böhm. Böhm is enthusiastic and begins to prepare the role of Rodolfo with Wenkoff. Without any contract yet, when a tenor singing Rodolfo cancels, Wenkoff replaces him on January 21, 1944 at the Staatsoper and has great success. The newspaper Wiener Kurier writes: We have not heard such a fresh, noble and delightful voice in years.

Before the destruction of the theater, Wenkoff sang Rodolfo (3 times), Italienischer Tenor (Capriccio, 3), Stimme des Jünglings (Frau ohne Schatten, 3), Malcolm (1), 4. Kappelsänger (Palestrina, 2), Dandini (Palestrina, 2) and Sänger (3), between January 21, 1944 and June 24, 1944

On March 12, 1945, Wenkoff survives a bombardment that destroys the Staatsoper. On April 12, 1945 the Red Army enters Vienna. Wenkoff becomes friend with the Soviet commandants Tolbuchin and Beresovskij and organizes concerts for the Russian, Bulgarian and American soldiers.

Wenkoff participates at the reopening of the Staatsoper at the Theater an der Wien on May 25, 1945 as Rodolfo. His last appearance at the Staatsoper was on April 21, 1956 as Riccardo, and at the Volksoper in 1957. Since the respective 1945 reopening, he had sung Riccardo (28 times), Rodolfo (59), Grigorij (2), Italienischer Tenor (Capriccio, 3), Turiddu (27), Don Carlo (2), Ernesto (12), Johnson (3), Faust (11), Vladimir Igorevich (2), Rinuccio (12), Octavio (Giuditta, 2), Gritsko (7), Števa (3), François Lorand (Kathrin, 4), Fenton (Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, 6), Pinkerton (53), Herzog Guido (Nacht in Venedig, 67), Cassio (33), Duca (21), Sänger (6), Graf von Bosco (Schalkhafte Witwe, 8), Cavaradossi (21), Alfredo (34), Manrico (1), Calaf (2), and Hans (17).

In 1946, Bulgaria asked him to return for his military service. The director of the Staatsoper intervened, and he became an Austrian citizen.

Until 1958, he was also a member of the Stadttheater in Basel. He made guest appearances in Graz, in Düsseldorf (1951), Hannover (1953), at the Teatro Liceo Barcelona (1955) and at the Opera in Monte Carlo (1955).

Wenkoff retired early while still having his voice because, according to his brother Spas Wenkoff, of stage fright.

With his spouse, he opened a pharmacy in Vienna. He died on May 12, 1992.
Reference 1: Peter M. Schneider Heldentenor Spas Wenkoff. Alles war Zufall, Rostock, 2008
Reference 2: Kutsch/Riemens

Wenko Wenkoff sings Tosca: Recondita armonia
In RA format
Wenko Wenkoff, born 1921 in Bulgaria. In the early 1940s, he came to Vienna for his vocal studies, where he was to spend most of his life and also died in 1992. He sang at the Vienna Staatsoper very frequently after World War II, mostly Italian parts. During the 1950s, he was also active in Italy (e.g. in "Puritani" in Catania with Maria Callas). There is not a single commercial or radio recording of his voice; this one is a private recording he made when still studying voice in Vienna.
Robert Schlesinger
I wish to thank Robert Schlesinger for the recording.

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