It may be surprising, but Wolfgang Müller-Lorenz was a tenor I actually liked very much. Surprising because he hardly ever
sang one beautiful phrase; but as far as characterization and intelligence, I've seen few singers able
to compete with him. In many ways, he was Wolfgang Windgassen's successor – a superb interpreter with a far below-average
voice and technique, though Müller-Lorenz had both the better voice than Windgassen (larger and more heroic) and the poorer
technique. Both singers had an exemplary German diction, Müller-Lorenz even more so – he was capable of singing Wagner's
weird texts (texts that are often hardly understandable even for German speakers, and even when reading them, so crazy
and clumsy is Wagner's use of language) in a way that made them basically comprehensible for the listener: a terrific
achievement that required, apart from the clear diction already mentioned, impressive intelligence. What Müller-Lorenz
actually did was picking out the more intelligible parts of Wagner's long and winding sentences,
and treating them as parole sceniche in the Verdian sense; as a result, it was easy to follow the libretto to the
extent of always knowing what's going on (and that's far more than can be hoped for, in Wagner's operas). Also Müller-Lorenz'
acting on stage was outstanding.
Any music remotely cantabile, though, let alone Italian music, was beyond Müller-Lorenz' capacities, and resulted in plain
ugly singing. But whenever sprechgesang was what the music required, it was a joy to watch Müller-Lorenz;
this included, other than Wagner, also Janáček (he made a great impression as both Laca in Její
pastorkyňa and Tichon in Káťa Kabanová). His best role, as far as I can judge from
personal experience, was Loge – a truly memorable achievement without much competition, not even on record.
Born November 24th, 1946 in Cologne, he was originally a baritone (singing, for instance, Papageno or Barbiere, and not least
specializing in contemporary music). After eight years, he switched to heldentenor (following Hans Hopf's advice). An important part of his career was spent in Graz, but he also sang at more famous
theatres, such as Covent Garden, Tokyo, Munich, Dresden, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Stockholm, Marseille, Zürich, Vienna State
Opera and so on.
In the late 1990s, the last time I heard him in opera, he was in poor vocal shape as Erik, but he continued his operatic career
(no longer in Graz) as long as 2007 – and in 2010, he was back once more for an operetta rarity (Winzerbraut by
Oscar Nedbal) at a small off-theater in Vienna, and was excellent!
Picture source: musicaforte.at (defunct)