The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005)

Please pardon this departure from the usual travel-related entries as I pay my respects to the great Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson. Her family announced today that she passed away on Christmas Day at the age of 87, having enjoyed a quiet retirement on her family's ancestral farm for more than 20 years.

Nilsson was one of the greatest dramatic sopranos of all time, with a huge and unparalleled voice that could pierce and soar above even the heavy orchestrations of Wagner and Strauss. Sure, she could belt out a note, but she also brought great dramatic presence to her roles (even in the quieter parts!). As Isolde, Brünnhilde, or Elektra, she has yet to be surpassed.

She was also known for her wit. Once, while teaching young singers in a master class, she was asked what the secret was to sustaining her energy throughout the performance of a 6-hour opera like Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.

"Wear comfortable shoes," she replied.

Click here to read her obituary from The New York Times.

The Times has also uploaded two snippets from her greatest roles. Click here to hear her Isolde—it’s the climax of her great Liebestod; note the sheer power of the high notes, followed by the tenderness of the final phrases.

Click here to hear her Brünnhilde —the female warrior’s famous “Hojotoho!” call.

Rest in peace.


  • Sorry, I did see the article in the Times and thought of you immediately. Is she whose receipe made the filled round delicious cookies? Also fyi you don't need to appolgize for anything you put in your blog. I for one look forward to anything you have to say. And it is your blog! Maw

    By Anonymous Maw, at 12:16 PM  

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