Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Passing of a Legend; Birgit Nillson Dies at 87

I am saddened to note, one of my Favourite Wagnerian Sopranos, Birgit Nillson died on December 25, 2005. The BBC noted her passing on Thursday, adding that there had been no illness reported and the the funeral had taken place (the previous day) Wednesday in her home town,Vastra Karup, southern Sweden.

Nilsson made her stage debut in 1946 at the Stockholm Royal Opera. Her Metropolitan Opera Debut in 1959 singing Isolde in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde

She began her long relationship with the Bayreuth Festival in 1954, with her performance of Elsa in Lohengrin. She went on to perform Siglinde and Brunhilde in Die Walkure to great aclaim. Her performance as Brunhilde is available in a recording with Erich Leinsdorf conducting the London Symphony Orchestra in which she sang opposite Canadian Bass Baritone George London as Wotan; on a Decca/London re-rlease Catalogue 470 443-2. (You can hear (in REAL Audio) a lengthy 53 second exerpt from the prelude to Die Walkure at the Decca sight as well!)

Isolde is one of the most diffiicult and physicallly exhausting roles in the soprano repertoire. In addition to the many other rolls she appeared in, one of the most notable is her performance as The Princesses Turandot at the Met for many years.

She retired from the stage in the 1980's ending an astounding 40 years of profressional singing. Every Saturday afternoon since I was a boy and into my teens, I tuned in to the Texaco Metropolitan Opera Live broadcast. For years hers was one of the voices I heard with regularity on the opera broadcast.

Birgit Nillson's voice was unmistakable with its crystal clear brilliance up into the uper registeres. On of my favorite recordings of hers remains her recording of The Princess in Giaccomo Puccini's Turandot with Franco Corelli singing the roll of The Prince on EMI CDMB 69327 I doubt many soprano's could match her performance in the Riddle Scene 'In questa reggia', with its brilliant high C's.

No, doubt EMI Canada has been caught off guard by this one, again a major classical recording artist dies and they will be scratching their heads trying to figure out who she was. It does not seem to be represented in the current Canadian Catalogue but it is still avaiable internationally. I found the listing in the International Catalogue by looking for Franco Coreli, the same tenor she play to in her Metropolitan Opera performance of the work.

It is well worth hitting the used CD's stores to find it. But don't count out the possibility that one of our more savy Classical relailers like Sikora's Classical Records may actaully stock the International Catalogue and have it in stock!

We will miss Birgit Nillson!


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