Opera Scotland

Birgit Nilsson Suggest updates

Märta Birgit Nilsson.

Born Vastra Karup, 17 May 1918.

Died Vastra Karup, 25 December 2005.

Swedish soprano.

Birgit Nilsson studied in Stockholm with the Scottish tenor Joseph Hislop and Arne Sunnegardh. Her debut in 1946 was in Stockholm as Agathe Der Freischütz, and she maintained close ties with the Royal Swedish Opera throughout her career.

She developed into one of the most important dramatic sopranos of the second half of the twentieth century, singing regularly in the world's great opera houses. Her voice was always beautifully focussed, with never a trace of wobble. She seemed absolutely tireless and at her peak in the 1960s was unrivalled in roles such as Brünnhilde, Isolde, Elektra and Turandot. In addition to those, she sang a range of parts by Mozart (Elettra, Donna Anna); Beethoven (Leonore); Wagner (Elisabeth, Sieglinde); Verdi (Lady Macbeth, Amelia, Aïda); Puccini (Tosca, Minnie) and Strauss (Salome, Dyer's Wife). She can be heard on record in nearly all of these roles.

Her debut at Munich was in the 1954-5 season, as Brünnhilde and Salome. She quickly made successful appearances in Vienna, Bayreuth, Milan, London, Chicago and New York.

She made her British debut in 1951 at Glyndebourne as Elettra (Idomeneo) and her first appearance at Covent Garden in 1957 as Brünnhilde. She continued to appear there regularly as Turandot, Elektra, Brünnhilde and Isolde until her final performances in 1977 (as Elektra). Her two visits to Scotland were both as a member of her home Stockholm company.

Roles in Scotland

Amelia wife of Anckarström
Masked Ball 1959
Brünnhilde a Valkyrie
Valkyrie 1959
Elektra daughter of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon
Elektra 1974

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