Norman Mittelmann studied with Doris Lewis in Winnipeg, with Richard Bonelli, Martial Singher, and Vladimir Sokoloff at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, and with Lotte Lehmann at the Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, California. He was coached in Italian opera by Enzo Mascherini.
Mittelmann’s first operatic roles were in Lehmann’s productions of The Marriage of Figaroand Ariadne auf Naxos. In 1956, he appeared in the US premiere of Milhaud’s David. He made his Canadian operatic debut with the Canadian Opera Company (COC) in 1958 as Marcello in La Bohème. He later sang in Europe with companies in Essen and Düsseldorf, joining the Deutsche Oper am Rhein ca. 1959.
Norman Mittelmann made his Metropolitan Opera debut on 28 October 1961 as the Herald in Lohengrin. He continued to sing at the Met until 1981. Returning to Europe, he appeared with the Berlin Deutsche Oper, the Munich Staatsoper, the Vienna Staatsoper, and companies in Hamburg and Karlsruhe. In 1965, he joined the Zürich Opera and made his debut with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, as Germont in La Traviata. In 1966, he sang Ruprecht in Prokofiev’s Angel of Fire with the Chicago Lyric Opera.
In 1967, Mittelmann returned to Canada to sing the four-part role of Lindorf, Coppelius, Dappertutto and Dr. Miracle in a COC production of The Tales of Hoffmann in Toronto and at Expo 67. The critic of the Toronto Telegram wrote of this quadruple portrayal (21 September 1967): “Dr. Miracle has his changes rung with superb authority by the baritone Norman Mittelmann. The portrayal seemed tailored not only to the requirements of the role but also to the propensities of Mittelmann. It is no mean feat bringing an abstract and an ego into such close alignment. Mittelmann of course is first-rate material... a splendid singer, a decent actor and an experienced operatic performer.” In 1983, Mittelmann repeated the role with the Chicago Lyric Opera.
In 1970, at the Hamburg Staatsoper, Mittelmann was Daniel in the premiere of Willy Burkhard’s Ein Stern geht auf aus Jaakob. He sang with the San Francisco Opera in 1973, 1974, and 1979, and performed the role of Amonasro in Aida at the San Diego Opera’s Verdi Festival in 1978. He appeared in Chicago as Shaklovity in Mussorgsky’s Khovantchina in 1976 and as Amonasro in 1980. He also performed with companies in Bogota, Buenos Aires, Caracas, Florence, Frankfurt, Marseilles, Paris and Palermo.
Mittelmann sang in opera in his native Winnipeg for the first time in April 1979, as the Count di Luna in the Manitoba Opera production of Il Trovatore. He appeared there again later that year as Germont in La Traviata. Also that season, he sang the title role in Rigoletto with the Edmonton Opera. In 1983, he performed in the US premiere of Janáček’s From the House of the Dead with the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Rafael Kubelik.
Other roles performed by Mittelmann include Achilles in Schoeck’s Penthesilea; Don Carlos di Vargas in La Forza del Destino; Escamillo in Carmen; Gerard in Andrea Chenier; Gunther in Götterdämmerung; Iago in Otello; Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde; Jokanaan in Salome; Mandryka in Arabella; Méphistophélès in both Berlioz' The Damnation of Faust and Gounod’s Faust; Ramiro in L’Heure espagnole; Scarpia in Tosca; Silvio and Tonio in I Pagliacci; Wolfram in Tannhäuser; and the title roles in Eugene Onegin; Falstaff, Prince Igor, and Simon Boccanegra.
Mittelmann maintained residences in Zürich, Switzerland, and in Carlsbad, California. After 1991, he sang primarily in concert and recital performances. He settled in his later years near Palm Springs, California, where he was artistic director of the Opera Showcase of the Desert and served on the board of the Palm Springs Opera Guild. He also worked as a real estate agent and owned a popular restaurant where, it was reported by the Desert Sun, he “sang to the delight of the patrons. He was by all accounts a force of nature, a big presence in every respect on stage and in life.”