Above: Kurt Moll as King Marke in TRISTAN UND ISOLDE at Bayreuth, 1974
The Voice of God! That's what I always thought whenever I heard Kurt Moll sing. The great basso has passed away at the age of 78.
Kurt Moll began his career at Cologne in 1958; he joined the Hamburg State Opera in 1969 and thereafter sang at the major theatres and festivals of Europe. His US debut came in 1974 as Gurnemanz in PARSIFAL with the San Francisco Opera.
Kurt Moll made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the Landgraf Hermann in TANNHAUSER on opening night of the 1978-1979 season. He sang over 125 performances at The Met, and I saw him many times there, starting with his debut role and thereafter as Osmin in DIE ENTFUHRUNG AUS DEM SERAIL, as Baron Ochs, Gurnemanz, Hunding in WALKURE, the Commendatore in DON GIOVANNI, Sarastro, and as Mozart's Dr. Bartolo. Invariably, regardless of who else might be sharing the stage with him in a star-studded evening, Kurt Moll walked off with the most vociferous of ovations; his curtain calls at the end of PARSIFAL were epic.
I last heard Kurt Moll at The Met as Sarastro in 2005; the voice was as imposing as ever. He was scheduled to return the following season, but serious injuries sustained in an accident curtailed his stage career; he sang for the last time as the Nightwatchman in MEISTERSINGER at Munich in 2006.
In 2005, while in New York City for what turned out to be his final Met performances, Mr. Moll one afternoon came into the opera room at Tower Records where I happened to be working. I've met hundreds of great singers, dancers, instrumentalists, and conductors in my day, but none of them ever left me in such speechless awe as having god standing before me. I made a very deep bow, and asked if he needed any help. "I will just have a look around!" he said. Before he left, I shyly asked if I could take a photo of him and he was very kind. I made an even deeper bow as he left.
Here's my souvenir of that memorable day:
And here are samples of Kurt Moll's magnificence in what I consider to be his two greatest roles: Gurnemanz and Sarastro.