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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, 86, legendary German baritone

(FILE PHOTO)  German baritone conductor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau circ1970. German baritone singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died aged 86. (Phoby Erich

(FILE PHOTO) German baritone and conductor Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, circa 1970. German baritone singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died, aged 86. (Photo by Erich Auerbach/Getty Images)

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Updated: July 1, 2012 12:16PM

BERLIN — Acclaimed German baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, who performed for more than five decades on stages in Berlin, Vienna, London and New York, died Friday. He was 86.

Known primarily as a specialist in lieder (German art songs), he died at his home in the southern German city of Starnberg. His wife, soprano Julia Varady, confirmed his death to the German press agency DPA.

Noted American baritone Thomas Hampson recently said of Mr. Fischer-Dieskau: “Few artists archieve his level of recognition, admiration and influence, and even fewer live to see, that influence realized during their own lifetime.”

Starting in the late ’50s, Mr. Fischer-Dieskau appeared regularly in Chicago in recitals (Daniel Barenboim was his pianist for a 1973 date at the Auditorium), and as a soloist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Though he sang with opera companies worldwide, Mr. Fischer-Dieskau never appeared at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Klaus Staeck, president of the German Academy of Arts, noted that Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s “performances of some of the great roles in opera history shaped the culture of singing.”

German Culture Minister Bernd Neumann said that the baritone “has deeply moved countless people around world for more than half a century through hundreds of concerts and recordings.” He added that Mr. Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings of works by composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert and Richard Strauss have set benchmarks for generations and that his famous representation of Schubert’s “Winterreise” remains unforgettable.

The Berlin-born Fischer-Dieskau started performing in the 1940s and quickly rose to prominence after World War II. Drafted into the Wehrmacht, he became an American prisoner of war for nearly two years.

In 1948, he made his operatic debut as Posa in Verdi’s “Don Carlos,” and quickly became a major star. Since 1951, he had appeared a staggering 123 times at Austria’s Salzburg Festival.

He ended his long career, during which he also worked as conductor and writer, with a farewell concert in Munich in 1992.

“His voice was without parallel, his presence and charisma ... remain unrivaled until today,” Deutsche Oper said in a statement.

He is survived by his wife and three sons from his first marriage.

From Sun-Times wires

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