Happy birthday Birgit Nilsson!

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Birgit Nilsson (May 17, 1918-December 25, 2005) was a Swedish opera singer. She was a soprano, whose voice is remembered for its force and clarity. She was one of the best performers of Wagner's work. Some of her most notable performances including Turandot, Die Walküre, and Tristan und Isolde.

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Nilsson was born on a farm in Västra Karup in Skåne, Sweden. She started singing at a very early age, and even said that she could sing before she could walk. She began to sing in a church choir, and was eventually persuaded to take voice lessons. She studied under Ragnar Blennow, and later with Joseph Hislop and Arne Sunnegard when she ended up at the Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm. Although she had so much guidance in her early career, she later attributed all of her ability to natural talent, saying that her voice teachers were of more harm than good.

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She made her debut in 1946, playing Agathe as an understudy in Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz. Soon after, she landed the leading role in Verdi's Macbeth under Fritz Busch, skyrocketing her onto the scene. She went on to play a variety of parts in operas by Strauss, Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, and Tchaikovsky.

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Fritz Busch was ultimately extremely important to Nilsson's career, helping her acquire her first role outside of Sweden–as Elettra in Mozart's Idomeneo at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1951.

 

In 1958, she took the leading role in Turandot at La Scala in Milan in 1958, and then performed the part all over Italy. In 1956, she performed with the San Francisco Opera the part of Brünnhilde in Wagner's Die Walküre. She quickly became known as one of the best Wagner performers.

 

Nilsson was known for her sheer power and volume. It is said that she once rendered a note at such a high pitch that audience members thought the fire alarm was going off.

Nilsson was also a shrewd businesswoman, and became one of the highest-paid singers in the industry, mostly due to her negotiation skills.

She has received the Illis Quorum gold medal from the Swedish government, one of the highest honors a Swedish citizen can receive. She also won the Sonning Award in 1966 and was inducted into Gramophone's Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 17 May 2014
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