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
Strauss: Die Frau ohne Schatten / Nilsson, Bohm
Release Date: 09/20/1994   Label: Deutsche Grammophon  
Catalog: 445325   Number of Discs: 3
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Browse 1-25 of 40 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    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  ... 
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  • 2.
    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
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  • 3.
    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
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  • 4.
    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
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  • 5.
    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  ... 
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  • 6.
    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  ... 
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    On sale! $259.98
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  • 7.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 22316 Release Date: 07/16/2013   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Maria von Ilosvay,  Hans Hotter,  Josef Greindl,  Georgine von Milinkovic  ... 
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
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  • 8.
    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:  Marilyn Tyler,  Helga Dernesch,  Vera Schlosser,  Berit Lindholm  ... 
    Conductor:  Riccardo Chailly,  Sir Georg Solti,  Stanley Black,  Antal Doráti  ... 
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  • 9.
    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: $34.99
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  • 10.
    Wagner: Siegfried / Bohm, Windgassen, Nilsson, Adam
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001820802 Release Date: 04/09/2013   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Theo Adam,  Erwin Wohlfahrt,  Erika Köth,  Vera Soukupová  ... 
    Conductor:  Karl Böhm
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra
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  • 11.
    Wagner: Heavy Classix - The Ultimate Collection
    Label: Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog: 001819702 Release Date: 04/02/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Liselotte Rebmann,  Helga Jenckel,  Cvetka Ahlin,  Danica Mastilovic  ... 
    Conductor:  Herbert von Karajan,  Karl Böhm,  Eugen Jochum,  Rafael Kubelik  ... 
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  • 12.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 189 Release Date: 03/26/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Birgit Nilsson,  George London,  Christa [Mezzo-soprano Vocal] Ludwig
    Conductor:  Hans Knappertsbusch
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  • 13.
    Weber: Der Freischutz / Heger, Gedda, Nilsson, Koth, Berry
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 235482 Release Date: 02/05/2013   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Carl Maria von Weber
    Performer:  Dieter Weller,  Birgit Nilsson,  Erika Köth,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  Robert Heger
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Bavarian State Opera Chorus
    CD: $12.99
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  • 14.
    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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  • 15.
    Solti: The Legacy, 1937-1997
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001777802 Release Date: 12/04/2012   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Benjamin Britten,  Umberto Giordano,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Margaret Price,  Tito Gobbi,  Mirella Freni,  Willi Domgraf-Fassbaender  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti,  Arturo Toscanini
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chamber Orchestra of Europe,  Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 16.
    Beethoven - The Orchestral Recordings / Otto Klemperer
    Label: Emi 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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  • 17.
    Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen / Solti, Vienna Philharmonic [Deluxe 19-Disc Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001745502 Release Date: 11/06/2012   Number of Discs: 19
    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
    Recommendation
    On sale! $299.98
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  • 18.
    Solti Conducts The Strauss Operas [15-CD Set]
    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  ... 
    Recommendation
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  • 19.
    Solti Conducts The Verdi Operas [16-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001746202 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 16
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi
    Performer:  Jon Vickers,  Robert Merrill,  Rita Gorr,  Leontyne Price  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Chorus,  Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus  ... 
    Recommendation
    On sale! $99.98
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  • 20.
    Solti Conducts The Wagner Operas [36-CD Set]
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001746302 Release Date: 10/16/2012   Number of Discs: 36
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  René Kollo,  Werner Krenn,  Isola Jones,  Janis Martin  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Chicago Symphony Orchestra,  Chicago Symphony Chorus,  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra  ... 
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  • 21.
    Wagner: Lohengrin / Jochum, Windgassen, Nilsson, Varnay, Adam, Fischer-Dieskau, Bayreuth Festival Orchestra & Chorus
    Label: Opera D'oro   Catalog: 7086 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Wolfgang Windgassen,  Franz Crass,  Birgit Nilsson,  Toni Blankenheim  ... 
    Conductor:  Eugen Jochum
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Bayreuth Festival Orchestra,  Bayreuth Festival Chorus
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    On sale! $63.98
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  • 22.
    Wagner: Tristan und Isolde / Solti, Nilsson, Uhl, Resnik
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 001728102 Release Date: 09/11/2012   Number of Discs: 4
    Composer:  Richard Wagner
    Performer:  Theodore Kirschbichler,  Fritz Uhl,  Ernst Kozub,  Tom Krause  ... 
    Conductor:  Sir Georg Solti
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra,  Vienna Friends of Music Society Chorus
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  • 23.
    Voices Of German Opera
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 40497 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,  Ludwig van Beethoven,  Carl Maria von Weber,  Heinrich Marschner  ... 
    Performer:  Natalie Dessay,  Edda Moser,  Kurt Moll,  Walter Berry  ... 
    Conductor:  Louis Langrée,  Wolfgang Sawallisch,  Berislav Klobucar,  Rudolf Moralt  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment,  Bavarian State Opera Orchestra,  Berlin Symphony Orchestra  ... 
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  • 24.
    Voices Of Italian Opera
    Label: Emi Classics   Catalog: 40509 Release Date: 07/31/2012   Number of Discs: 5
    Composer:  Vincenzo Bellini,  Gaetano Donizetti,  Gioachino Rossini,  Giuseppe Verdi  ... 
    Performer:  Maria Callas,  Edita Gruberova,  Margherita Carosio,  Francesco Meli  ... 
    Conductor:  Tullio Serafin,  Kurt Eichhorn,  Anatole Fistoulari,  Evelino Pidò  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Munich Radio Orchestra,  Philharmonia Orchestra  ... 
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  • 25.
    Label: Urania   Catalog: 184 Release Date: 07/24/2012   Number of Discs: 3
    Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi,  Giacomo Meyerbeer,  Giacomo Puccini,  Umberto Giordano  ... 
    Performer:  Carlo Bergonzi,  Ettore Bastianini,  Antonietta [Soprano Vocals] Stella,  Giulietta Simionato  ... 
    Conductor:  Erich Leinsdorf,  Gianandrea Gavazzeni,  Tullio Serafin,  John Pritchard  ... 
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