Remembering Birgit Nilsson

Join La Cieca in a special edition of “Unnatural Acts of Opera,” recalling some great moments from magnificent Birgit Nilsson.

Part 1 includes selections from Die Walkuere, Lohengrin (with Astrid Varnay), Siegfried (with Hans Hopf), Goetterdaemmerung and Parsifal (with Helge Brilioth), plus “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

In Part 2, Nilsson is heard in Tannhaeuser, Salome (with Fritz Uhl and Grace Hoffman). “Traeume,” Tristan und Isolde (with Christa Ludwig) and Turandot (with Franco Corelli). A live 1973 performance of the “Liebestod” closes the program.

11 Responses to “Remembering Birgit Nilsson”

  1. Boringwhitegirl Says:

    Thank you, La Cieca. What a lovely memorial. I heard the sad news when I got in my car and the last minute of the Liebestod was on the radio. I just had time to think “Odd, they don’t play opera this time of day” and “Damn, I wished I’d gotten in the car in time to hear it all” before it ws over. You have remedied the latter more than generously.

  2. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Thanks, indeed, Mme La Cieca.

    The National Symphony as part of its scheduled program performed last night the first act of Die Walkuere. Conductor James Conlon dedicated the performance to the memory of Birgit Nilsson. I hate to admit that tears came to my eyes. Sadly, I don’t think the audience knew who she was. There was no reaction from the audience after the announcement until I started applauding. And even then it was only polite applause at best.

    I came back home to listen to her Sieglinde from a 1953 performance. Aaahhhh…

  3. Wow. That Liebestod is so much better than the studio version you hear everywhere. Not that that one is shoddy, by any means…

  4. Chalkenteros Says:

    Hojotoho! Hojotoho! Heiaha! Heiaha!

  5. Ravensun Straysinger Says:

    Thank you, La Cieca! I love that photograph of Birgit Nilsson; it showed that she was not only a grand lady of opera, but a grand lady of comedy and amusement as well.

    Must now go listen to The Ring Cycle – all four operas!

  6. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Wow,great musical selections. After that Turandot selection there’s only one thing to say, they sure don’t make them like that anymore!

  7. We only know her through her recorded legacy, but some friends and I were talking about Nilsson last night. I passed on a story that I read here. I tend to think of Nilsson as a Wagner and Grieg singer, but her Puccini must have been amazing. I have her “Vissi d’arte” on an album and am intrigued by the idea of her singing Turandot. (Very curious, that lack of reaction in the Washington audience.)

  8. I thank you, too La Cieca. I turned off the lights, lit the incence and sat there in the dark listening to your wonderful memorial – it was sublime! Godspeed to Valhalla dear Birgit- “great” just doesn’t cover it!

  9. Il Tenore di Grazia Says:

    Clayton, I was also somewhat surprised – disappointed would be more accurate – about the poor audience reaction when the performance of the first act of Die Walkuere was dedicated to the memory of Birgit Nilsson.

    Then again, it was a National Symphony subscription concert. (It wasn’t sold-out by any stretch of the imagination.) Some of these people may not know about opera; others may be too young to have heard la Nilsson live. Actually I believe that Nilsson sang only once in Washington, back in the 70’s at Constitution Hall. (She ended it with her customary “I could have danced all night,” high note at the end and all.)

    Remember that Washington is NOT New York! The Nilsson obituary by the Washington Post lead music reviewer – Tim Page – said that Rudolf Bing referred to Nilsson as having dimples of iron. Well, any self-respecting opera fan know that it was Tebaldi who had the dimples of iron. Nilsson didn’t have dimples. Not on her face anyway.

  10. celticpriestess Says:

    Thanks very much, La Cieca! Although Nilsson was active when I first discovered opera as a teenager, I only got to hear her on radio and on recordings. Of course, hearing her in the Solti Ring, which I bought with my allowance in the Time-Life version, was certainly impressive enough in itself for a youngster!
    I’m quite grateful for the live material you furnished, and for your fine tribute to a lady who was THE Wagnerian soprano for people of my generation. La Cieca always does these things the right way!

  11. I was fortunate enough to hear Birgit Nilsson only once, in Electra. I was a student and only able to afford standing room, but I’ll never forget the actual physical sensation of the sound waves of that magnificent voice reaching me in the back. I’ve seen lots of opera, but no one has ever done that to me. She was perfection.

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