Ingvar Wixell was one of the leading operatic baritones of the 20th century. He had a commanding stage presence and dark baritone voice that made him suited for the most dramatic roles, but was also highly effective in comic roles.
He studied in Stockholm. His first operatic appearance was as Papageno in Mozart's The Magic Flute. His first international appearance came when the Stockholm Royal Opera visited London's Covent Garden in 1960. Then he performed as Ruggiero in Handel's Alcina.
His first appearance at Glyndebourne Festival Opera was as Guglielmo in Così fan tutte. Later that year, he sang the same role at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin, and was thereupon invited to join it. He became a member of the company in 1963. In 1965 he sang in the popular Eurovision Song Contest. In 1966 he created the role of Pentheus in the world premiere of Hans Werner Henze's The Bassarids at Salzburg. His American debut was in San Francisco as Belcore in L'elisir d'amore, and first sang at the Met in 1973 as Rigoletto.
The Deutsche Oper was the company with which he was most closely associated. He remained on its roster for 35 years, leaving it after his final performance as Scarpia in Puccini's Tosca on November 9, 1998. Scarpia might have been his signature role, but he also sang many Verdi roles, including Don Carlo in La forza del destino, Simon Boccanegra, and Rigoletto. Others of his most important roles were Eugene Onegin, Mandryka in Strauss's Arabella, and the Count in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. In the later part of his career he became a memorable exponent of Verdi's Falstaff, and in 1998 received raves for his singing and comic acting in Donizetti's Viva la Mamma! as Mamma Agatha.