He studied voice at the Vienna Music Academy and made his debut at the Vienna State Opera in 1947. He became a regular member of the company in 1950 and remained with that ensemble for his entire career, with regular guest appearances elsewhere in Europe.
He made many memorable appearances at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City during the 1960's and 1970's in such roles as Barak in Die Frau ohne Schatten, as Telramund in Lohengrin, Wotan in Die Walküre, Baron Ochs in Der Rosenkavalier, Don Pizarro in Fidelio, as Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, the Music Master in Ariadne auf Naxos and Leporello in Don Giovanni, singing his last Barak April 14, 1978.
His signature roles were Papageno in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, Figaro, and Bluebeard. He was also a noted interpreter of Lied and choral works and enjoyed performing in operettas, particularly Die Fledermaus.
He married Christa Ludwig in 1957.