Born: February 4, 1935 - Hittola, Finland
Died: July 22, 1989 - Juva, Finland
The remarkable Finnish bass, Martti (Olavi) Talvela, received training at the Lahti Academy of Music from 1958 to 1960. After winning the Finish Lieder Competition in 1960, he studied voice with Carl Martin Ohmann in Stockholm.
Martti Talvela made his operatic debut there at the Royal Theater as Sparafucile in Rigoletto in 1961. He made his first appearance at the Bayreuth Festival in 1962 as Titurel. That same year, he joined the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, where he sang leading bass roles. In 1968 he made his USA debut in a recital at Hunter College in New York. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in New York as the Grand Inquisitor in Don Carlos in October 1968. He appeared there in succeeding years with increasing success, being especially acclaimed for his dramatic portrayal of Boris Godunov.
From 1972 to 1980 Martti Talvela served as artistic director of the Savonlinna Festival. He was to have assumed the post of artistic director of the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki in 1992, but death intervened. In 1973 he received the Pro Finlandia Award and the Finnish State Prize.
A man of towering dimensions (6’7”), Martti Talvela’s command of the great bass roles was awesome. Among his outstanding portrayals, in addition to Boris Godunov, were Hagen, Hunding, Gurnemanz, the Commendatore, and Sarastro. He also was effective in contemporary roles.