Domingo’s German cohort has died

Domingo’s German cohort has died


norman lebrecht

July 20, 2015

In September 1984 Placido Domingo, still a tenor, sang his first German role – Lohengrin – at the Met. The New York Times chief critic, Donal Henehan, thought ‘he faced up to the challenge extremely well’.

Far better than the lower voices, at any rate: ‘Franz-Ferdinand Nentwig’s quavering and bleating baritone, annoying in the opening act, did not actually smooth out later on,’ wrote Henehan.

A stalwart of the Hannover Opera, Nentwig was one of Germany’s most trusted Wagner singers. He took major roles in Vienna every year from 1976 to 1987 and was booked in Paris, Monte Carlo and Aix. But something about his voice irritated US critics. Six months ahead of his Telramund, Martin Bernheimer wrote in the Los Angeles Times:

‘The current revival of “Die Meistersinger” at the Metropolitan Opera doesn’t have a Hans Sachs.

‘It only has Franz Ferdinand Nentwig, who strikes amiable poses, approximates the vocal line with thick, dark, coarse, often off-pitch mutterings, and runs out of voice long before the 5 1/2-hour marathon reaches its bombastic, Deutschland-ueber-Alles climax on the festival meadow.’

What satisfied the Germans was not necessarily for export.

Franz Ferdinand Nentwig died on July 14 at his home in Portugal, aged 85.



  • Dominic Stafford Uglow says:

    I thought he made his debut as Lohengrin in Hamburg in the early 70s.

  • Harold Lewis says:

    Norman, an unashamed note from the pedantry department. ‘Cohort’ is often misused as in your headline to denote a sidekick or close associate. Its correct meaning is a group or detachment of people fighting with a common cause or linked by common characteristics. A Roman military term, it originally meant a fighting unit, one tenth part of a Roman legion.

  • Michael Endres says:

    I have never been a great Wagner enthusiast, but that particular clip from the Met shows excellent Wagner singing and the enthusiastic reception of the audience speaks for itself.
    Maybe Mr. Bernheimer was a little indisposed…

  • Respect says:

    Most of us have hit Bernheimer on a bad day. My one bad review came from Martin, who I respect, but will hammer one if he doesn’t like ( I had an off night from exhaustion, and he said exactly that). But I don’t think it’s fair yo introduce an obit with their worst review. It’s quite distasteful.

  • MacroV says:

    And what does Domingo have to do with this? So they sang together in a MET production 31 years ago. Surely he sang with other noted singers, no?

    • La Donna del Largo says:

      “And what does Domingo have to do with this?”

      Clicks to this page based on the word “Domingo” in the headline.