Eberhard Wächter (the name is sometimes rendered "Waechter") was an important baritone in the middle part of the twentieth century, and, after his singing career, an opera administrator.
He took piano and music theory at the University of Vienna beginning in 1950, then moved to the Vienna Academy of Music. After leaving the Conservatory in 1953, he began to take private voice lessons with Elisabeth Rado.
He debuted at the Vienna Volksoper in I Pagliacci as Silvio. In 1954, he received a contract as a member of the company of the Vienna State Opera and quickly became a Viennese favorite, particularly after scoring a major success as Posa in Verdi's Don Carlos, then as the Count in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, which he also sang in his London debut at Covent Garden.
This led to his being engaged to sing the role of Donner in Wagner's Das Rheingold in the historic and classic first-ever recording of the opera produced by John Culshaw and conducted by Georg Solti on Decca records, a set that has never gone out of print since its release in the first years of stereophonic LPs.
He began singing Wagnerian roles, and in 1958 made his first Bayreuth appearances as Amfortas (Parsifal) and Wolfram (Tannhäuser). He soon played all the principal houses of Europe. He debuted at the Metropolitan in January 1961, as Wolfram.
He received the distinction of being named a Kammersänger of Austria in 1963. Commentators agree that he made a mistake when he undertook the role of Wotan in 1964 in Das Rheingold. He was evidently better suited for more lyrical baritone roles, such as Escamillo in Carmen, Simon Boccanegra, Scarpia, Danilo, Ford in Falstaff, Jokanaan in Strauss' Salome, Danilo in The Merry Widow, and Danton in Gottfried von Einem's Dantons Tod, and Alban Berg's Wozzeck. He also excelled as Orestes in Richard Strauss' Elektra.
He was especially famed for his portrayal of Mozart's Don Giovanni, and his recording of it is considered by many to be the finest version of that opera-some would say of any Mozart opera-on disc.
He had a warm yet brilliant voice, which could take on a tenor-like edge. He also had a noble stage bearing.
After retiring from the stage, he became the director of the Vienna Volksoper in 1987. In 1991, he also became director of the Vienna State Opera, but died the next year while still holding that position.