Thursday, 17 May 2018

I even sang in my dreams

Was there ever a more truly Wagnerian singer than Birgit Nilsson..? It seems unlikely that her Isolde and Brünnhilde will ever be equalled, let alone surpassed. She brought to these roles all the qualities their composer could possibly have wished: a voice of heroic proportions, a remarkable musicality, an interpretative imagination as incandescent as the music itself and a technique as solid as the rock on which the latter heroine slept for 20 years. Even her laughter, though it was only heard offstage, rang like the Valkyries' "Ho-yo-to-ho". - The Guardian
We have a centenary today to celebrate - one of the greatest of all operatic singers, a national icon in her native Sweden, Miss Birgit Nilsson.
"You must always expect the very best. You must aim for the stars in order to hit the trees. One has to put the expectations very high, and sometimes it's a burden." - Birgit Nilsson
Renowned for her virtuosity as a Wagnerian soprano, her voice was admired for its overwhelming force, bountiful reserves of power, and the gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register. She once told an interviewer that she could sing before she could walk, adding, "I even sang in my dreams". She was also a very funny lady: after a disagreement with the Australian soprano Joan Sutherland, Nilsson was asked if she thought Sutherland's famous bouffant hairdo was real. She answered: "I don't know. I haven't pulled it yet."

She didn't just stick to high opera, either. She often ended a recital with a rousing - and unexpected - rendition of I Could Have Danced All Night from Lerner & Loewe's My Fair Lady - see my previous tribute to Miss Nilssen for that.

Here, for those of you who would like to wallow in the great lady's sumptuous voice for almost a full hour, is a centenary treat:

Song list:
Turandot (Puccini) In questa reggia
Tannhäuser (Wagner) Allmächt’ge Jungfrau
Im Prater blüh’n wieder die Bäume! (Stolz)
Wien, du Stadt meiner Träume (Sieczynski)
Messiah (Handel) Come unto Him
Stabat Mater (Rossini) Inflammatus
Macbeth (Verdi) Vieni, t’aff retta... Or tutti, sorgete
La Forza del Destino (Verdi) Pace, pace, mio Dio!
Tosca (Puccini) Vissi d’arte
Götterdämmerung (Wagner) Grane, mein Ross! (Immolation Scene finale)
Tannhäuser (Wagner) Dich, teure Halle
Turandot (Puccini) In questa reggia


As for (the signed) photo #2 at the top of this post, she nestles quite neatly between Joans Crawford and Collins, Miss Lipman and Al Pillay on the wall at Dolores Delargo Towers #4, n'est ce pas?

Märta Birgit Nilsson (17th May 1918 – 25th December 2005)


  1. I misread the name as Brigette Nielsen, thinking: "Red Sonja was an opera singer?"

    Thanks for the introduction to this magnificent powerhouse and funny lady! The only opera singer that I know and enjoy is Maria Callas. I grew up listening to her sing various operas on the late night a.m. radio on the farm. Had no clue what she was singing but what an enchanting, ethereal, and alluring voice.

    Now I can add Miss Marta Birgit Nilsson to the list of my fave opera singers.

    1. P.S. I love your autograph collection! Wow! Just spectacular and amazing!

    2. So pleased to add a diva to anyone's listening collection! As for our gallery of the great and the good, Birgit is merely one among a collection of seventy-five framed pictures on our walls, a good proportion of which are autographed... Jx

    3. PS Just the thought of the "Queen of the Sequel" (Rocky IV, Beverly Hills Cop II, Chained Heat II, etc) and duettist with Falco attempting Der Ring des Nibelungen made me titter! Jx

  2. Indeed never "will ever be equalled, let alone surpassed"

    overwhelming force with a bountiful reserves of power together with a gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register, puts it rather well

    For me the Decca recording of the ‘Ring Cycle’ with her, Georg Solti and The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra will always be the 'go to' version of that great work.

    And yes we are very proud to have her signed photo on our wall.

    1. Proud, indeed - and we now need to add to our collection, so she can sit on our wall next to another Joan - Dame Joan Sutherland. Off to eBay I go... Jx


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