(May 17, 1918 – December 25, 2005)
One of the greatest voices of the century, Swedish dramatic soprano Birgit Nilsson triumphed in the Wagner/Strauss repertoire....and was at the very least, formidable in every other repertoire from Verdi to Mozart.
Her stentorian voice seemingly effortless, floated through roles that other singers wouldn't dare touch until later career. Known for her great sense of humour and geniality she was loved by colleagues and fans alike.
After establishing herself as one of the greatest exponents of the Wagner roles at Bayreuth, performing the Brunhilde's & Isolde's her career took a further boost to superstardom when she performed Puccini's taxing "Turandot" with Franco Corelli at La Scala in Milan. She went on to perform the role with the Royal Opera in London, and the Metropolitan in New York. Thereafter she sang the role in many of the other houses around the world.
Turandot – a role she later referred to as her "holiday money" was one that she virtually "owned" and by which others are still measured by, even today.
Later career came more Elektra's and Salome's. Her final performance of Elektra at age 62 at the Metropolitan Opera is available today on DVD.
She once commented "who remembers you after you have retired?"
One can only think she would be surprised to know that thanks to many recordings and films she made, she is as revered and discussed today as she ever was.
Her stamp and the benchmark she set remains as intact as ever. She was known as a charming lady with a wicked sense of humour and quick wit. During one rehearsal with Herbert Von Karajan she broke a string of pearls and as people scrambled to gather them up Von Karajan quipped "I suppose they are expensive pearls bought with your exhorbitant fees from the Metropolitan" to which she quipped back - "No Maestro- they are imitation ones bought with the tiny fees I recieved from the Vienna Stats Oper (where Von Karajan was a Director at that time).
A museum of "Birgit memorabilia" was opened in Sweden in 2010.
Birgit Nilsson is one of the featured stars on our "Legends" product range.