Born in Brunswick. While being trained in Paris to become a pianomaker, he discovered that his talents lay in another direction, and returned to his home a dramatic singer instead of a piano-maker. In Hanover he studied with Koch, and in 1875 made his first appearance as a tenor soloist in Sondershausen. This engagement was followed by others in Altenburg, Darmstadt and Hamburg, and finally he became Imperial Court operasinger at Vienna. At Bayreuth in 1882 Winkelmann assumed the role of Parsifal.