Opera Scotland

Hildegard Behrens Suggest updates

Born Varel, nr Oldenburg, 9 February 1937.

Died Tokyo, 18 August 2009.

German soprano.

A great singing actress, considered by many to be the finest Wagnerian soprano of her generation, Behrens trained initially as a lawyer. She then studied at the Freiburg Academy of Music, and made her debut as Countess Almaviva at the Freiburg Opera in 1971. She was 34. The next years of her career were divided between Düsseldorf and Frankfurt, singing lyric roles by Mozart and Weber. She also took on the lighter Wagner roles including Elsa and Eva. Dramatic parts included Marie in Wozzeck as well as Kátya (the production in which she made her only Scottish appearances).

She came to international prominence when Karajan chose her for his recording and Salzburg production of Salome. At Bayreuth she sang Brünnhilde in the 1983 Ring cycle conducted by Solti and directed by Peter Hall. She sang frequently at the New York Met, beginning with Fidelio, and adding a range of roles from Mozart (Elettra, Donna Anna), to Wagner (Isolde, Brünnhilde) and Strauss (Salome, Elektra). She also sang Santuzza, Tosca and Marie at the Met. Other major appearances were in Munich, Paris, Houston, Los Angeles, Santiago and Buenos Aires.

Later roles added to her repertoire included Hanna Glawari, Kundry, Ortrud and the Kostelnička, which she sang at the 2001 Salzburg Festival. At Salzburg she also created the role of The Woman 'R' in Cronaca del Luogo (Berio 1999).

Her British debut in 1976 was as a late replacement Leonore, in a Fidelio revival at Covent Garden conducted by Reginald Goodall. She did not return to Britain often, but later appearances with the Royal Opera included Salome, Tosca, Elektra and Brünnhilde.

She is well represented on record. Apart from the Karajan Salome, her Strauss recordings include the Dyer's Wife with Solti and Elektra with Ozawa. She can be heard as Marie on Abbado's version of Wozzeck. She also recorded Isolde with Bernstein and Brünnhilde with Sawallisch. She can be seen on DVDs of the Met Ring production under Levine, as well as Elettra in Idomeneo.

Roles in Scotland

Káterina Kabanová known as Katya, Tikhon's wife
Kátya Kabanová 1978

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