Hans Hotter Memoirs,
translated by Donald Arthur.
Northwestern University Press,
324 pages, $35

Opera-lovers are as naturally contentious as, if less homicidal than, Iraqi insurgents. Yet on one issue they speak with impressive unanimity. They all admit that, apropos Wagner performances, the two decades following World War II—on both sides of the Atlantic—constituted our last true golden era. Among those performances’ protagonists, Hans Hotter reigned supreme. Those privileged to see and hear him as Wotan in the Ring cycle, or as Gurnemanz (Parsifal’s biggest, most pitilessly demanding part), beheld a perfect alignment of music and interpreter. Recordings, thank goodness, disclose to us comparative youngsters much of Hotter’s subtlety, flawless diction, and—the Teutonic noun is as unavoidable as it is untranslatable—Innigkeit. What they...

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