Birgit Nilsson

Biography

Born: May 17, 1918; Västra Karups, Sweden   Died: December 25, 2005; Västra Karups, Sweden  
The vocal talents of Birgit Nilsson were first recognized when began to sing in her church choir. She studied voice with Ragnar Blennow in Bastad and later at the Royal Music Academy Stockholm with Joseph Hislop and Arne Sunnegard. She made her opera debut at Stockholm where her first important role was Agatha in Der Freischütz, and in 1947 she sang Lady Macbeth in Verdi's Macbeth there. Her first important international appearance came in 1951 Read more as Elettra in Mozart's Idomeneo at the Glyndebourne Festival. In 1952, she sang Donna Anna in Don Giovanni at Florence. Her first important appearances in Wagner operas came in 1953 at Stockholm where she sang Elisabeth in Tannhäuser and Isolde for the first time. This marked the start of the most important Wagnerian career of the second half of the twentieth century. The following year she made her Bayrueth debut as Elsa in Lohengrin and in the same season sang Ortlinde in Die Walküre. She later appeared there as Isolde and as Brunnhilde. It was in Munich during the 1954-1955 season that she first sang Brunnhilde in Wagner's Das Ring der Nebelungen and during the same season she sang her first Salome. In 1957, she sang the complete Ring cycle in London. At the Vienna State Opera she was heard as Elsa, Sieglinde, Elisabeth, Aida, and Sent. In 1957 she sang Leonore in Beethoven's Fidelio and the following season sang her first Turandot. She was also highly regarded for her interpretations of Elektra and the Barak's Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten. Her other important Italian roles were Tosca, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera and Aida. She sang at all of the major opera centers of the world including Tokyo, Paris, Buenos Aires, Chicago, San Francisco, and Hamburg. Also she sang Turandot in Moscow with the Teatro alla Scala. At the age of 62, a performance of Strauss' Elektra was videotaped at the Metropolitan Opera House and broadcast around the world.

Because of her full schedule of opera performances, Nilsson did not sing in many concerts or recitals although early in her career she did sing the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven on several occasions including one at Bayreuth. She did give some recitals including tours of Australia and Japan as well the major music centers of Europe and North America. Her recital programs concentrated on the German and Scandinavian songs, including some rarely heard pieces by Stenhammar. She often sang "I Could Have Danced All Night" as an encore.

The voice of Birgit Nilsson was like a laser beam that cut through the orchestra, unlike the voice of Kirsten Flagstad or Jessye Norman which are like a wall of sound. It was a large voice with such brilliance that at times it gave the sensation of being sharp of the intended pitch. She was a congenial colleague except for her long standing difficulties with Franco Corelli regarding the length of the high Cs in Puccini's Turandot and with Herbert von Karjan. Happily all of her important roles have been preserved on recordings. As long as the operas of Wagner are performed, the voice of Birgit Nilsson will be remembered, and no one has sung Puccini's Turandot with more brilliance or security. Her autobiography, Mina minnesbilder, was published in 1977 at Stockholm. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 127 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Opera Gold: 100 Great Tracks
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002503602 Release Date: 06/03/2016   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Giacomo Puccini,  Georges Bizet,  Giuseppe Verdi,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Luciano Pavarotti,  Marilyn Horne,  Dame Joan Sutherland,  Mirella Freni  ... 
    Conductor:  Zubin Mehta,  Henry Lewis,  Richard Bonynge,  Herbert von Karajan  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  John Alldis Choir,  Wandsworth School Boys' Choir,  London Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $21.99
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  • 2.
    A Tribute to Hans Knappertsbusch
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109212 Release Date: 03/25/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Birgit Nilsson,  Claire Watson,  Fritz Uhl,  Josef Greindl  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    DVD: $29.99
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  • 3.
    A Tribute to Hans Knappertsbusch [Blu-ray]
    Label: Arthaus Musik   Catalog: 109213 Release Date: 03/25/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Birgit Nilsson,  Claire Watson,  Fritz Uhl,  Josef Greindl  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra
    Blu-ray Video: $39.99
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  • 4.
    The Decca Sound [Repackaged Edition]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002434502 Release Date: 01/29/2016   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Manuel de Falla,  Claude Debussy,  Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov,  Enrique Granados  ... 
    Performer:  Teresa Berganza,  Alfredo Campoli,  Vladimir Ashkenazy,  Cecilia Bartoli  ... 
    Conductor:  Ernest Ansermet,  Ataulfo Argenta,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Vladimir Ashkenazy  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Suisse Romande Orchestra,  London Symphony Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $181.49
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  • 5.
    Stokowski - Gala Night at the Opera - 1962
    Label: Guild   Catalog: 2410 Release Date: 01/05/2016   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Spoken Word,  Richard Wagner,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Alexander Borodin  ... 
    Performer:  George London,  Birgit Nilsson
    Conductor:  Leopold Stokowski
    On sale! $15.98
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  • 6.
    The History of Classical Music in 24 Hours
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002403602 Release Date: 11/13/2015   Number of Discs: 24
    Composer:  Anonymous,  Pérotin,  Guillaume de Machaut,  John Dunstable  ... 
    Performer:  Konrad Ragossnig,  Charles [Tenor Vocals] Daniels,  Susan Gritton,  Trevor Pinnock  ... 
    Conductor:  Pater Godehard Joppich,  David Munrow,  Josef Ulsamer,  Bruno Turner  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Early Music Consort of London,  Ulsamer-Collegium,  Hamburger Bläserkreis für Alte Musik  ... 
    CD: $75.49
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  • 7.
    Sibelius: Great Performances
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002376002 Release Date: 09/11/2015   Number of Discs: 11
    Composer:  Jean Sibelius
    Performer:  Jan Damen,  Ruggiero Ricci,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Birgit Nilsson
    Conductor:  Anthony Collins,  Thomas Jensen,  Eduard Van Beinum,  Erik Tuxen  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Danish Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra  ... 
    CD: $65.99
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  • 8.
    Karajan - The Opera Recordings
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002328102 Release Date: 07/31/2015   Number of Discs: 70
    Composer:  Georges Bizet,  Christoph W. Gluck,  Franz Lehár,  Franz von Suppé  ... 
    Performer:  Heinz Zednik,  Christine Barbaux,  Katia Ricciarelli,  José Van Dam  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra,  Paris Opera Chorus,  Schöneberg Boys Choir  ... 
    CD: $279.49
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  • 9.
    Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen / Solti
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002330102 Release Date: 06/09/2015   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Hans Hotter,  Birgit Nilsson,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
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  • 10.
    100 Classical Masterworks
    Label: Dg Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002188102 Release Date: 01/06/2015   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Richard Strauss,  Edvard Grieg,  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Lorin Maazel,  Neeme Järvi,  Herbert von Karajan,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Conductor:  Lorin Maazel,  Neeme Järvi,  Herbert von Karajan,  Carlo Maria Giulini  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bolshoi Theater Violin Ensemble,  Ansbach Bach Week Soloists Union,  Salzburg Mozarteum Camerata Academica  ... 
    CD: $29.99
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  • 11.
    Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen / Solti [Blu-ray Audio]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002236146 Release Date: 01/06/2015   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Hans Hotter,  Birgit Nilsson,  Kirsten Flagstad,  Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna State Opera Chorus
    Blu-ray Audio: $87.49
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  • 12.
    The Originals - Legendary Recordings from DG
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002171502 Release Date: 10/27/2014   Number of Discs: 50
    Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Johannes Brahms,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  David Oistrakh,  Igor Oistrakh,  Pierre Fournier,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  David Oistrakh,  Sir Eugene Goossens,  Franz Konwitschny,  Carlos Kleiber  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Philharmonic Orchestra,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
    CD: $175.49
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  • 13.
    The Verdi Tenor / Carlo Bergonzi
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002089202 Release Date: 08/12/2014   Number of Discs: 17
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Francesco Cilèa,  Umberto Giordano,  Giacomo Meyerbeer  ... 
    Performer:  Giulietta Simionato,  Cornell MacNeil,  Carlo Bergonzi,  Piero de Palma  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Sir Georg Solti,  John Pritchard,  Rafael Kubelik  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Friends of Music Society,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus  ... 
    CD: $48.99
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  • 14.
    Most Wanted Recitals! Verdi: Great Scenes From Aida
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 002110002 Release Date: 08/05/2014   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner,  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Birgit Nilsson
    Conductor:  Sir Colin Davis,  John Pritchard
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra
    CD: $12.99
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  • 15.
    Strauss: Elektra / Bohm, Nilsson, Rysanek, Vienna State Opera (Live)
    Label: Orfeo   Catalog: 886142 Release Date: 07/08/2014   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Leonie Rysanek,  Birgit Nilsson,  Regina Resnik,  Wolfgang Windgassen  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
    CD: $39.99
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  • 16.
    Rca Living Stereo Collection, Vol. 2
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 300350 Release Date: 05/13/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Richard Strauss,  Sergei Rachmaninov,  Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky  ... 
    Performer:  Artur Rubinstein,  Byron Janis,  Gary Graffman,  Vladimir Horowitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Josef Krips,  Fritz Reiner,  Pierre Monteux,  Charles Munch  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Symphony of the Air,  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Boston Symphony Orchestra  ... 
    On sale! $125.98
    CD: $120.99
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  • 17.
    Wagner: Tannhauser / Lustig, Rysanek, Nilsson, Bohm
    Label: Andromeda   Catalog: 9065 Release Date: 04/29/2014   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Leonie Rysanek,  Rudolf Lustig,  Gottlob Frick,  Marcel Cordes  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Naples Teatro San Carlo Chorus,  Naples Teatro San Carlo Orchestra
    CD: $14.99
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  • 18.
    RCA Living Stereo Collection, Vol. 1
    Label: Rca   Catalog: 541497 Release Date: 04/15/2014   Number of Discs: 60
    Composer:  Camille Saint-Saëns,  Claude Debussy,  Jacques Ibert,  Maurice Ravel  ... 
    Performer:  Berj Zamkochian,  John Weicher,  Philip Farkas,  Jascha Heifetz  ... 
    Conductor:  Charles Munch,  Fritz Reiner,  Kiril Kondrashin,  Arthur Fiedler  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Boston Symphony Orchestra,  New England Conservatory Chorus,  New England Conservatory Alumni Chorus  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 19.
    Richard Strauss: Complete Operas
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 002013902 Release Date: 03/25/2014   Number of Discs: 33
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Anneliese Rothenberger,  Cäcilie Reich,  Eva Maria Rogner,  Ira Malaniuk  ... 
    Conductor:  Joseph Keilberth,  Giuseppe Sinopoli,  Karl Böhm,  Sir Georg Solti  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus,  Dresden Staatskapelle  ... 
    Recommendation
    On sale! $175.98
    CD: $167.49
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  • 20.
    Music Of Steel - Heroic Themes From The Movies
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001871502 Release Date: 07/09/2013   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  John T. Williams,  Gioachino Rossini,  Richard Strauss,  Richard Wagner  ... 
    Performer:  Helen Watts,  Marilyn Tyler,  Birgit Nilsson,  Claudia Hellmann  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly,  Sir Georg Solti,  Stanley Black,  Antal Doráti  ... 
    CD: $11.99
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  • 21.
    Great Wagner Singers [6-CD Set]
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001826302 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 6
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Hans Hotter,  Sieglinde Wagner,  Dame Gwyneth Jones,  Gundula Janowitz  ... 
    Conductor:  Heinrich Hollreiser,  Wilhelm Pitz,  Ferdinand Leitner,  Richard Kraus  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus  ... 
    CD: $39.99
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  • 22.
    Wagner: Tristan Und Isolde / Bohm, Windgassen, Et Al
    Label: Myto Records   Catalog: 328 Release Date: 04/30/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen,  Birgit Nilsson,  Kerstin Meyer,  Eberhard Wächter  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
    CD: $14.99
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  • 23.
    Verdi: The Great Operas [35-CDs]
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 167452 Release Date: 01/22/2013   Number of Discs: 35
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Anne Edwards,  Matteo Manuguerra,  Nicolai Ghiaurov,  Renata Scotto  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Muti,  James Levine,  Tullio Serafin,  Antonio Pappano  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Ambrosian Opera Chorus,  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus  ... 
    CD: $88.99
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  • 24.
    Beethoven - The Orchestral Recordings / Otto Klemperer
    Label: Warner Classics   Catalog: 404275 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 10
    Composer:  Ludwig van Beethoven
    Performer:  Aase Nordmo-Lövberg,  Waldemar Kmentt,  Hans Hotter,  Christa Ludwig  ... 
    Conductor:  Otto Klemperer
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Philharmonia Orchestra,  Philharmonia Chorus,  New Philharmonia Orchestra
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  • 25.
    Solti conducts The Strauss Operas
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001746102 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 15
    Composer:  Richard Strauss
    Performer:  Waldemar Kmentt,  Hilde Gueden,  Eberhard Wächter,  Wilhelm Lenninger  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  London Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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