Walter Berry (bass-baritone)

Walter Berry (8 April 1929 – 27 October 2000) was an Austrian lyric bass-baritone who enjoyed a prominent career in opera. He has been cited as one of several exemplary operatic bass-baritones of his era.[1][2]

Walter Berry
Heiligenstädter Friedhof - Walter Berry.jpg
Grave in the Heiligenstädter Friedhof cemetery
Born(1929-04-08)8 April 1929
Vienna, Austria
Died27 October 2000(2000-10-27) (aged 71)
Vienna, Austria
Alma materUniversity of Music and Performing Arts Vienna
OccupationOpera singer
Years active1949–1998
(m. 1957; div. 1970)

Professional careerEdit

Walter Berry was born in Vienna. He studied voice at the Vienna Music Academy and made his stage debut with the Vienna State Opera in 1947. He became a permanent member of the company in 1950, remaining with that ensemble for his entire career, although he undertook frequent guest appearances elsewhere in Europe and in the UK.[3][4]

In 1952, Berry made his first appearance at the Salzburg Festival, where he subsequently performed on a regular basis. While in Salzburg, he collaborated with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in a production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera Don Giovanni with Leontyne Price and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.[5] While appearing in Vienna and Salzburg he interpreted an extensive operatic repertoire which included over one hundred roles. He received high praise for his interpretations of Franz Schubert's lieder as well as songs by Gustav Mahler. Included among his acclaimed renditions of sacred works were: Johann Sebastian Bach's "Passions" and Ludwig van Beethoven's Missa Solemnis.[6]

He made many memorable appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City during the 1960s and 1970s in such roles as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten, Telramund in Lohengrin, Wotan in Die Walküre, Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, Don Pizarro in Fidelio, Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos and Leporello in Don Giovanni. He sang his last Barak on 18 November 1984.[7][8]

Berry's other signature roles included: Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute, Figaro in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and Bluebeard in Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle. He was also a noted interpreter of lieder and was accompanied often at recitals by the German pianist Sebastian Peschko. Berry also appeared in choral works. Performing in light-hearted operettas, particularly Die Fledermaus, was one of his pleasures.[9] Astonishingly, Berry never appeared in London in the role with which he perhaps became most closely linked, Papageno, despite an operatic career that spanned more than 40 years.

Walter Berry married the leading mezzo-soprano Christa Ludwig in 1957 and collaborated with her both on stage and in several recordings. The couple were divorced in 1970.[10][11]


Walter Berry died in 2000 at the age of 71 in Vienna following a heart attack. He was entombed in the Heiligenstädter Friedhof cemetery (Part A, Group 1, Number 263) in Vienna.[12][13]


External audio
  Berry in Mozart's Requiem with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, and Leontyne Price, Hilde Rössel-Majdan, Fritz Wunderlich and Eberhhard Wächter in 1960 Here on

Berry was a prolific recording artist and participated in many highly acclaimed opera recordings, including the classic Otto Klemperer recordings of The Magic Flute (as Papageno) and Fidelio (as Don Pizarro), both for EMI Records. He also recorded Johann Sebastian Bach's sacred oratorio St. Matthew Passion for Columbia Records with Otto Klemperer and the Philharmonia Orchestra in 1961 and years later for Deutsche Grammophon with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic in 1972.

Also included among his recorded performances are: Béla Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle (London Records), Beethoven's Missa solemnis (Deutsche Grammophone), Joseph Haydn's The Creation (Deutsche Grammophon), Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte and Marriage of Figaro (both EMI), and Mozart's Bastien und Bastienne (Philips).[14]

Critics at Billboard magazine noted that his collaboration with his wife Christa Ludwig in a recording of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle was delivered with dramatic force and strength.[15] In 1967, Billboard's critics also praised his recording with Ludwig of scenes from Richard Strauss's Elektra, Die Frau ohne Schatten and Der Rosenkavalier issued in the United States on the RCA Victrola label, as outstanding and worthy of Strauss' best traditions.[16] Berry's definitive recordings have earned him the distinction of being cited as one of the truly exemplary bass baritones and basses in opera.[17][18]

Berry recorded on DVD as Don Pizarro, opposite Ludwig, James King, and Josef Greindl; and as Papageno with Pilar Lorengar as Pamina; also as Leporello opposite Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the title role and Josef Greindl, in a performance in German of Don Giovanni.


External audio
  Berry as Dr. Falke in Johann Strauss II's Die Fledermaus with Herbert von Karajan conducting the Vienna Philharmonic and Ettore Bastianini, Teresa Berganza, Jussi Björling, Hilde Gueden, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Renata Tebaldi, Joan Sutherland, Eberhhard Wächter and Ljuba Welitsch in the mid 1960s Here on

A partial listing of Walter Berry's recordings includes:[19][20]


  • Peter Gammond: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Recorded Opera. Salamander Books, 1979. ISBN 0-517-53840-7, OCLC 5170690
  • Richard Miller: Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone and Bass Voices. Oxford University Press, New York, 2008. ISBN 978-0-19-804338-6, OCLC 213386753
  • Dorottya Fabian: Bach Performance Practice 1945–1975 – A Comprehensive Review of Sound Recordings and Literature. Routledge, New York, 2017. ISBN 978-1-351-57487-7, OCLC 993762315
  1. ^ "Walter Berry, 71, Opera Star Specialising in Mozart Roles" The New York Times Obituary, Allan Kozinn. 31 October 2000.
  2. ^ Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone & Bass Voices Richard Miller. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008 p. 175-176 ISBN 978-0-19-532265-1
  3. ^ Allan Kozinn,"Walter Berry, 71, Opera Star Specializing in Mozart Roles" The New York Times Obituary. 31 October 2000.
  4. ^ The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Recorded Opera Peter Gammond. Salamander Books 1979 p. 237 Biography of Walter Berry, via Google Books
  5. ^ The Library of Congress – Don Giovanni – Audio recording featuring Walter Berry on
  6. ^ "Walter Berry, 71, Opera Star Specializing in Mozart Roles" The New York Times Obituary, Allan Kozinn. 31 October 2000
  7. ^ "Walter Berry – Austrian Singer" Encyclopaedia Britannica
  8. ^ "Classical Music: 17 to Make Debut with Met Opera – Walter Berry" Billboard 17 September 1966 p. 49 Walter Berry in "Die Frau ohne Schatten", via Google Books
  9. ^ "Walter Berry sings in Die Fledermaus" on
  10. ^ "Walter Berry, 71, Opera Star Specializing in Mozart Roles" The New York Times Obituary, Allan Kozinn. 31 October 2000 (subscription required)
  11. ^ "German opera star Christa Ludwig dies at the age of 93". BBC News. 25 April 2021. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
  12. ^ Allan Kozinn, "Walter Berry, 71, Opera Star Specializing in Mozart Roles" The New York Times Obituary. 31 October 2000.
  13. ^ Vienna, Michael Kranewitter (April 14, 2009). "Deutsch: Heiligenstädter Friedhof, Grabmal von Walter Berry" – via Wikimedia Commons.
  14. ^ "Classical Music – Met Opening Sparks Opera Record Push" Billboard 8 October 1966 p. 54 via Google Books
  15. ^ "Album Reviews – Bartók's "Bluebeard's Castle" " Billboard 27 August 1966 p. 36 Critical review of album by Walter Berry and Christa Ludwig on
  16. ^ "Special Merit Picks – Richard Strauss Operatic Scenes – Walter Berry & Christa Ludwig" Billboard 11 November 1967 p. 41, via Google Books
  17. ^ Dorottya Fabian, Bach Performance Practice 1945–1975. (University of New South Wales, Australia) Routledge, New York 2017 p. 280–282 ISBN 978-0-7546-0549-2, via Google Books
  18. ^ Richard Miller, Securing Baritone, Bass-Baritone & Bass Voices. Oxford University Press, Oxford 2008 p. 175–176 ISBN 978-0-19-532265-1]
  19. ^ "Walter Berry Bass and Classical music | Discogs".
  20. ^ "Results for 'Walter Berry' []".

External linksEdit