Birgit Nilsson



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Report of Birgit's 80th birthday bash (by Per Nilsson)

Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson was born on May 17, 1918 in the town of Vastra Karup in the province of Skane (Scania) in southern Sweden. She married Bertil Niklasson, a veterinary student she met on a train, on September 10, 1948.

Miss Nilsson made her operatic debut on October 9, 1946 as Agathe in Der Freischütz with only 3 days notice. Her debut came shortly after she had joined the Swedish Opera School. After her brief stint as Agathe, Miss Nilsson made her breakthrough performance as Lady Macbeth in 1947 at the Royal Opera in Stockholm.

Miss Nilsson attained international stardom after a performance as Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on December 18, 1959. She says, though, that the single biggest event in her life was when she was asked to perform at the opening of the 370th season at La Scala as Turandot on December 7, 1958.

In 1966, Miss Nilsson was asked to appear in a rather unusual performance at the Metropolitan Opera. During a showing of Tannhäuser, she was asked to sing the parts of both Venus and Elisabeth. They did not appear on stage at the same time, of course!

Birgit Nilsson is probably best known for her portrayals of Turandot in Turandot, Brünnhilde in Richard Wagner's Der Ring Des Nibelungen (a role with which she made her La Scala debut in 1958), Isolde in Tristan und Isolde, and Elektra in Elektra. Miss Nilsson is also known for her interesting relationship with Rudolf Bing. When Bing was asked if Birgit was difficult, he replied, "Not at all, you put enough money in and a glorious voice comes out." When preparing her taxes Miss Nilsson was asked if she had any dependents. "Yes," she said, "Rudolf Bing." Miss Nilsson retired from opera in 1984.



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