Matti Salminen in 2009
Matti Salminen in 2009

Matti Kalervo Salminen (born 7 July 1945) is a Finnish operatic bass, now retired,[1][2] who has sung at the most important opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan and Bayreuth Festival.[3] He is distinguished by an imposing figure and height (6' 5"),[4] a cavernous, heavy, dark voice with an expansive upper register, and an expressive face. According to one reviewer, in his prime Salminen was "... simply the largest bass voice in captivity. It is not just its roar in powering over Wagner's maximum orchestra, but the way he carves the sonority and forms the color."[5]

Salminen has a special gift for playing menacing, threatening characters. He performed as Fafner and Hagen in the PBS video broadcast Ring Cycle from the Metropolitan Opera, for the largest viewing-audience of the Ring in history.


Salminen was born in Turku. In his youth he earned money for voice lessons by singing Finnish tangos in night clubs.[6] He has published an anthology of Finnish tangos.[7] He first caught public eye as a lucky understudy in the role of King Philip II, when he was just 24 years old. He continued performing this role until (almost) the end of his career; a DVD was released in 2014.[8]

Salminen is a widely video-taped singing actor with three different performances as Hagen available on DVD; also two performances as the Commendatore, several as Sarastro, two as Hunding and two as Daland. Videotaped performances and films are also available as King Phillip II, the Grand Inquisitor, Seneca, Gurnemanz, Pogner, King Marke, Kaspar, Rasputin, Boris Godunov, and Prince Ivan Khovansky.

At the Bayreuth Festival he first appeared in 1976 as Titurel (Parsifal), Hunding (Die Walküre), and Fasolt (Das Rheingold) in the Jahrhundertring (Centenary Ring) in 1976, celebrating the centenary of both the festival and the first performance of the complete cycle, conducted by Pierre Boulez and staged by Patrice Chéreau, recorded and filmed in 1979 and 1980. He continued until 1989 adding Fafner (Das Rheingold, Siegfried), Daland (Der fliegende Holländer), King Marke (Tristan und Isolde), Heinrich (Lohengrin), Pogner (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), Landgraf (Tannhäuser) and Hagen (Götterdämmerung) to his roles there. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as King Marke on 9 January 1981, and performed 132 times there in several roles, until 28 March 2008.[9]

He sang in the premiere of Sallinen's Kuningas Lear in 2000 (King Lear, title role),[10] and Jukka Linkola's Robin Hood in 2011 (Sheriff).

Aside from operatic roles, Salminen also performs in sacred music and concert recitals. He gave a farewell concert at the Zürich Opera House in December 2016.[11]

Awards and honors

See also


  1. ^ "Matti Salminen - Bass, Retired".
  2. ^ He is listed as "retired", but he apparently sang as Pogner the Goldsmith in Die Meistersinger in April 2019, see here:
  3. ^ Ruth-Esther Hillila, Barbara Blanchard Hong (1997) Historical dictionary of the music and musicians of Finland Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 359 ISBN 0-313-27728-1
  4. ^ "Lawrence Journal-World - Google News Archive Search".
  5. ^ "Mariedi Anders Artist Management". Archived from the original on 26 October 2009.
  6. ^ "At Bottom, He's an Actor Who Sings : Music: When Matti Salminen was 17, he had a brief role in an amateur ensemble. That's when the 'basso cantante' decided to go classical instead of pop". Los Angeles Times. 13 December 1995.
  7. ^ Label: Koch Schwann (Germ.) ASIN: B00005B5MZ
  8. ^ "VERDI: Don Carlo (Complete opera) (2014)". 27 October 2014.
  9. ^ "Metropolitan Opera Association".
  10. ^ Anderson, Martin. Strong and Simple. Interview with Aulis Sallinen. Finnish Music Quarterly magazine, 2/1999.
  11. ^ "ZÜRICH/ Opernhaus: ABSCHIEDSKONZERT MATTI SALMINEN – Persönlichkeit ist das Geheimnis oder Der Fels in der Brandung". 13 November 2016.
  12. ^ "Matti Salminen". 19 November 2019.
  13. ^ "Matti Salminen: "I realised the importance of the economy in expression: less is more"". Pizzicato. Luxemburg. 9 February 2017. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
  14. ^ "Suomen Leijonan Pro Finlandia -mitalin saajat 1945-2019". 6 January 2021.
  15. ^ "Finnisches Urgestein, basstönend – Matti Salminen zum 75. Geburtstag - neue musikzeitung". nmz (in German). Retrieved 9 December 2020.