Ivar Andrésen possessed one of the outstanding bass voices of the twentieth century. He studied singing at the Royal Swedish Opera School in Stockholm with Gillis Bratt and later with Hjaldis Ingebjart. Although initially thinking himself to be a tenor, he retrained as a bass while still a student. He was tutored in the Wagnerian school of singing by Siegfried Wagner in Bayreuth and by Bruno Kittel in Berlin and made his début at the Royal Stockholm Opera in 1919 as the King of Egypt in Aida. Remaining with the Stockholm company until 1926, he took part in the first performance of Kurt Atterberg’s opera Bäckahästen, in 1925. Between 1926 and 1934 Andrésen was a member of the Dresden State Opera, where he was a key figure in the Verdi renaissance which took place in Germany between the two world wars, and of which the Dresden State Opera was a driving force. It is however for his Wagnerian performances that he is best remembered, although in 1930 he sang in the first performance of Othmar Schoeck’s Vom Fischer und syner Fru which took place in Dresden. While still at Dresden he joined the Berlin Städtischen Oper (City Opera), making his début in 1931 as Daland/Der fliegender Holländer, and in 1934 moved up to become a member of the Berlin State Opera, remaining there until 1939. He first appeared at the Bayreuth Festival in 1927, singing Gurnemanz/Parsifal and King Marke/Tristan und Isolde, returning there regularly until 1936 and singing all the major Wagnerian bass parts: Fasolt/Das Rheingold, Hunding/Die Walküre, Pogner/Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, the Landgraf/Tannhäuser and Titurel/Parsifal.
At this time Andrésen was also active as a guest singer, appearing at Vienna (1927), Hamburg, Munich, and Barcelona (1929), as well as at Covent Garden between 1928 and 1931, where he sang Wagnerian rôles and Sarastro/Die Zauberflöte. Andrésen made his début at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, once again as Daland, in 1930 and remained with the company until 1932. In 1931 he took part there in the first American performances of Jaromír Weinberger’s Schwanda the Bagpiper, gaining critical acclaim for his portrayal of the Sorcerer. His guest appearances continued at the highest level, at the Paris Opera in 1931, Zürich in 1934, Amsterdam in 1936 and at the young Glyndebourne Festival, where he sang Sarastro in 1935 and Osmin/Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1936. In 1939 he took part in the first opera performance to be broadcast on television in Germany, as Colas in Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne. He died unexpectedly in 1940 in Stockholm, aged only 44, by which time his career was beginning to fade.
In addition to the major Wagnerian rôles, Andrésen was an accomplished interpreter of numerous buffo bass parts such as, in addition to those already mentioned, Dr Bartolo / Le nozze di Figaro and Abu Hassan / Der Barbier von Bagdad (Cornelius), and many of the central rôles of the bass repertoire, including the Commendatore/ Don Giovanni, Plunkett / Martha, Ivan Khovansky / Khovanshchina, and Banquo / Macbeth (Verdi). He was also an accomplished concert and lieder singer, as his numerous recordings demonstrate.
He began his recording career while singing in Stockholm, making his first recording in January 1921 for HMV’s Scandinavian subsidiary, Concert Record Gramophone. Two more titles were recorded in September 1922, after which Andrésen changed labels to Nordiska Polyphon, a subsidiary of Deutsche Grammophon. Between March 1923 and May 1924 he recorded for this company thirty-six titles which were issued on eighteen double-sided records; and in May 1925 recorded two further titles for HMV. Andrésen was quick to change to the new electrical recording method and in November 1926 recorded four titles for the Lindström Company. He maintained this connection when he took part in the recordings made in the Bayreuth Festival Theatre by the English Columbia label, which had purchased Lindström as part of its international expansion during the second half of the 1920s, singing King Marke in Tristan und Isolde (1928) and the Landgraf in Tannhäuser (1930). Andrésen’s other studio recordings include excerpts from his operatic repertoire as well as some distinguished lieder performances. The American critic Will Crutchfield described his interpretation of Carl Loewe’s Der selt’ne Beter, in which a royal father prays for the life of his daughter, as ‘one of utter involvement and considerable imaginative and vocal resource’ (Song on Record, Oxford, 1986).
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers, Naxos 8.558097-100).
Role: Classical Artist