Marcel Wittrisch (1901-55) was born to a German family in Antwerp, Belgium. He studied voice in Munich, Leipzig, and Milan. His operatic debut was in Halle in 1925. His career was based in Berlin. He started as a lyric tenor with a voice whose timbre was also well suited for operetta. As his career progressed he sang heavier roles, He appeared in the title role of Lohengrin at Bayreuth in 1937. After the World War II he sang Siegmund and Parsifal. He also appeared in seven films made between 1939 to 1934. I am not aware of the cause of his premature death.
He made over 400 recording, all as far as I can tell in German. I don’t believe he sang in any other language. His voice has been likened to that of Richard Tauber though with an easier top. Wittrisch’s sound was bright early in his career. As he progressed his voice darkened such that he was able to successfully sing spinto roles. The 4th Act duet from Les Huguenots was made in the early 30s. The soprano is Margarete Teschemacher. The Nazi’s destroyed the master of this recording because Meyerbeer was Jewish. The Offenbach recordings below seem to have escaped this fate. Les Huguenots Act 4 duet
Wittrisch’s singing of the Flower Song from Carmen is either sensitive or subdued depending on your taste. I’m lean towards the former camp. Another French opera, Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. Je crois entendre encore, in German of course, is done about as well as a German tenor can do it. A fine effort, though Wittrisch won’t make you forget Henri Legay.
He does very well in operetta as did his coeval Tauber. Two examples. Komm in Die Gondel is from Strauss’ Eine Nacht in Venedig. The beautiful melody receives a splendid reading. Wolgalied from Lehar’s Der Zarewitsch is equally well sung. Wittrisch’s voice and style were perfectly suited for German operetta.
The tenor’s voice was also appropriate for Offenbach’s overwhelmed eponymous hero in The Tales of Hoffmann. The Legend of Kleinzach is from the Prologue. Ô Dieu, de quelle ivresse Hoffmann is from the Epilogue. At this point, Hoffmann has lost everything but his muse – his art.
Wittrisch could handle a very lyric Italian aria with aplomb. Ecco ridente is from the beginning of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. Two more selections from Italian opera – both from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana. In situ they are separated by Alfio’s challenge to a duel. First the Drinking Song, then Turridu’s farewell to his mother – Un bacio, mamma! Un altro bacio!
Finally Wagner, which as mentioned above Wittrisch sang towards the end of his career. In fernem land from Lohengrin. In summary, a fine tenor now largely forgotten. The fate that awaits all of us save the extraordinarily gifted few.