Bayreuth is hit as star singer quits

Bayreuth is hit as star singer quits


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2021

The highly promoted Austrian bass Günther Groissböck has pulled out of this summer’s Walküre, where he was due to sing Wotan, and next year’s projected Ring cycle.

He informed the festival 24 hours before it opened. No replacement has yet been located.

The festival’s director Katharina Wagner blamed his withdrawal on the long Covid layoff, saying the singer would only perform when he was ready to give of his best.

The blow to Bayreuth is considerable. Groissböck has a very large Austro-German fan base.

UPDATE: He makes a srumbling apology on Instagram:


  • RW2013 says:

    Maybe he didn’t want to be part of the scenic concept –
    The performances of the “Walküre” will be framed by commissioned works in various artistic genres that mirror, comment on, continue or re-experience all parts of the “Ring des Nibelungen”.

    • Yes Addison says:

      Groissböck made favorable comments to the New York Wagner Society about Sebastian Baumgarten’s 2011 Tannhäuser, one of Bayreuth’s most hated productions of the last ten years. (It was set in a factory.) He happened to be appearing in the same opera at the Met, a revival of the Schenk/Schneider-Siemssen exhibits, and he confessed that the Baumgarten was more to his taste. He joked that he was one of its few defenders.

      On the basis of those comments and other things he’s appeared in before and since, I’d put other reasons ahead of distaste for a director’s concept if I were speculating on why he’s pulled out.

      • Tiredofitall says:

        Fact check: Mr. Groissböck did not appear in a Met Ring until 2019 (LePage; not Schenk).

        Following his Met debut in 2010, in 2011Groissböck was still singing Puccini and Verdi.

        • Yes Addison says:

          No one claimed he sang a Met Ring earlier than 2019. I was referring to Tannhäuser. He was in that in 2011 at Bayreuth and then in 2015 at the Met. While the Met Tannhäusers were ongoing, there was a panel at the NY Wagner Society with most of the cast. That is when and where he talked about Baumgarten vs. Schenk.

          Bayreuth’s most recent Ring was Frank Castorf’s, not Baumgarten’s. But he was in that too.

          • David G says:

            That panel was a hoot. Groissbock compared singing in a foreign language to using a condom: “You get in there, but you don’t really feel it.” Peter Mattei, Eva Maria Westbroek, Michelle de Young nearly fell out of their chairs!

    • Y says:

      I’d think most singers would be embarrassed to appear in a Bayreuth staging. Modern directors seem to enjoy humiliating them.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    He deserves every bit of his reputation. He’s outstanding. And as good as he is, Georg Zeppenfeld is even better

  • RW2013 says:

    The replacement is the very reliable and
    often inspiring Tomasz Konieczny.

  • Novagerio says:

    He might have realised that Walküre-Wotan is too high for him…

    • Anonymous Boush says:

      Thanks for beating me to this observation. Groißböck gave a recital at Wiener Staatsoper in June 2020 (audiences for a series of recitals were limited to 100) and he pulled out the Abschied from the third act of “Die Walküre” for his last encore and it was frighteningly clear: he ain’t got the chops for it!

      By the way, the Bayreuth chorus master was booed – loudly – tonight when he took his bow wearing a mask.

      Massive booing for Tcherniakov, especially when he took his solo bow (his execrable production sets a new low for Bayreuth), and actually a few scattered boos for Asmik Grigorian.

      • Günther Kraus says:

        Thank you for pointing out what many of us have been thinking! I heard the same encore after his Liederabend and had the same reaction, namely “woton schafft er nicht.”

        Groissböck has been getting by on youth and muscle for the last 15 years of his career. He was supposed to sing Woton last year in Bayreuth and this past spring in Vienna, meaning his excuse of not being sufficiently prepared does not hold water.

        I heard an excerpt of Groissböck’s performance in Boccanegra with Domingo this fall. My reaction: who is that old man singing with Plácido.

        He can still sing Ochs and these rolls that require stage presence and charisma, but rolls that require Legato and fine singing, should not be a part of his future.

  • Maria says:

    A bit late in the day to be doing that and I find a bit mean. Every professional singer – and all good amateurs – has been affected by the long shutdown of Covid and, certainly in England and in the rest of the UK, must have been singing to four walls to keep their voices going – or deciding whether to continue at all on any level – for the past 17 months. I feel he could have pulled out in a more generous manner to give Bayreuth a better chance to replace him and get the show on the road.

  • Inaustria says:

    As a singer I have very little understanding for a cancelation like this. It is unfair to Bayreuth, to his fans who may have bought tickets and most especially to his colleagues, who have also been at home for many months. I simply can’t believe that he suddenly discovered that this role was too much for him. Yes, we are ALL in an unusual situation after the shut down and if he is ill, of course he should cancel. If he has developed crippling stage fright it would be a shame. It will be interesting to see how the rest of his career plays out.

  • Anne says:

    Not surprised by this at all. I have heard rumors that he refused to mask during rehearsals (a quick look at his social media should tell you all you need to know about his political and vaccine stances).

    If this is true, I say good riddance to bad rubbish. He’s not that great and he is possibly a threat to his fellow cast members’ health.

    • Tom Phillips says:

      He is indeed a Covid denier and fervent opponent of lockdowns. Does not mean that he is not a superb artist – which he is, one of the best around today – just a morally and politically stunted human being (like Netrebko and quite a few others).

      • Anne says:

        I’m sure we’re all familiar with the axiom re: opinions, but from where I sit, he will not go down in history as one of the world’s finest basses.

      • poyu says:

        To deny Covid is arguably worse than morally stunted – he put his close-contact colleagues in higher risk -, but it is also intellectually defected, after longer than a year that this virus exhibited what it can do.

        • Saxon says:

          People can agree that Covid is a serious issue but disagree that lockdown/masks are the best way to deal with it. Afterall, there are serious consequences to health and social welfare from locking-down. Perhaps you should be more generous to other points of view (excluding, of course, the obvious nutters).

  • Wimsey says:

    The important news is that the Wotan for next year’s ring will be announced later., and that means that Groissböck probably realised that the role is not for him. If he stays as a bass. He’s still singing the usual bass parts this year (Hermann, Titurel and so on), so I hope he stays in Bayreuth. Zeppenfeld can’t sing every bass role! (although this year he will sing Daland and Pogner in consecutive days).

    • waltraud becker says:

      Zeppenfeld is not only the best Wagner-Bass at the moment, he is a smart and amiable person too…..

    • SUGGERITORE says:

      The number of real basses that can scale Walküre and the final Act of Siegfried are almost non-existent. The only one, of recent memory, I can think of who sang these monsters with success was John Tomlinson, but he had an almost unique/supernatural ability to sing above his natural passaggio for far longer than is normally humanly possible. Go back to the middle of the 20th Century and you have Hotter. I suspect (although I do not know) that Zeppenfeld will never do Wotan. I personally find it very courageous for someone to be honest enough to find that actually these three big Acts (WL2&3 and SG3) were perhaps actually “a bridge too far”. As for who might do all three from next summer, the list seems to me to be not very long, perhaps four of the calibre to be able to do it and who have not already done so at Bayreuth, and they all have the word “baritone” in their voice-fach somewhere! Konieczny is, IMHO, one of them. And at this kind of notice, the replacement will cause scheduling ripples elsewhere. I am personally really sorry for Günther and the audiences that he has cancelled. (And yes, I know him and most of the others personally)

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Rene Pape had similar issues when attempting Wotan just over a decade ago – and no doubt all of his chain smoking kept his voice quite low.

      • Tom Phillips says:

        Konieczny is definitely more of a baritone than a bass (he also performs roles like Jack Rance, Mandryka etc.) and is clearly a more suitable Wotan (and a spectacular Alberich which unfortunately he no longer sings). Other than Tomlinson, few true basses have been successful Wotans though Jerome Hines gave quite a go at it in the late 50s and early 60s.

  • Harpist says:

    So while everybody else is longing to be with audience again and be able to do her/his job – he claims exactly that is currently too much for him and he is not ready yet? I call BS on that. And if he is a COVID denier, good riddance. As good as his voice might be there will be others.

  • Sarah says:

    Can anyone translate his Instagram video, or a bit of it? Much obliged!

  • great singer ! says:

    that s a pity, he s a great singer and a wonderful personality. the decision is to be respected.