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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Happy Birthday Birgit Nilsson (17 May 1918 – 25 December 2005)

Birgit Nilsson as Salome

The first time I heard Salome was back in 1984, the famous Solti recording for Decca.  I taped it off the radio and over the succeeding years wore the tape thin to the point it disintegrated.  This was also the first time I heard the clarion voice of Birgit Nilsson and I have loved her ever since.

Birgit Nilsson in the Dance of the Seven Veils

The sheer size, power and stability of her voice astounds me to this day, she is truly in a class of her own.  Of course, once I had heard her in Salome I was deperate to hear more of her work and soon my collection grew to feature her as Amelia, Tosca, Elektra, Isolde, Aida, Brunnhilde and what would have to be her signature role, Turandot.

Birgit Nilsson slurping over the severed head in Salome

Now I am much older I have most of her studio recordings and continue to delight in my growing collection of her work, both live and in the studio, not to mention viewing the snippets you can find on YouTube.  We are fortunate to have such a recorded legacy.

I've always admired her sense of humour, for which she was well known, not to mention the many pranks she was part of, which are now themselves part of Operatic Legend.

There are many photos I could have shown you here, of her many varied roles, but I wanted to keep this tribute simple.  An homage to my first encounter with the voice of La Nilsson and her haunting portrayal of Salome.


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