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Birgit Nilsson

Birgit Nilsson Sings Wagner (2CD)

Birgit Nilsson. Richard Wagner. It was an operatic marriage made in heaven that lasted for over twenty years and, thanks to recordings, continues to thrill music lovers around the world. Nilsson sang her first Wagnerian part in Stockholm. It was Senta in Der fliegende Holländer. It was greeted rapturously and throughout her long career it was for her Wagner and Strauss roles that she was most noted. Many of the greatest recordings of music dramas and operas by these composers have featured her.

Here is a snapshot of some of those great moments, captured on record, and bringing together three complete LPs – two made for Philips (Segerstam, Davis) and one for Decca (Knappertsbusch).

Nilsson’s voice had the clear, silvery sound that seems to be characteristic of Scandinavian singers. It was rock solid, encompassed over two octaves, and was perfectly even, top to bottom. It was also enormous. Especially in the upper part of the voice it could take on a laser-like quality that simply sliced through the densest orchestral sound and speared listeners to the backs of their seats. That meant the great moments of a Wagnerian opera were truly monumental – a surging orchestra and a soprano who dominated everything, combined into an overwhelming climax as Wagner must have heard in his dreams.

1. Die Walküre: ‘Schläfst du Gast’ (Act I – closing scene)
2. Parsifal: ‘Dies alles hab’ ich nun’ – ‘Ich sah das Kind’ (Act II)
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Leif Segerstam

3. Rienzi: ‘Gerechter Gott’
4. Der fliegende Holländer: ‘Johohoe! Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an’*
5. Die Feen: ‘Weh mir, so nah’
6. Wesendonck-Lieder
The John Alldis Choir*
London Symphony Orchestra
Sir Colin Davis

Tristan und Isolde:
7. Prelude to Act I
8. Isolde’s Narrative and Curse*
9. Liebestod
Grace Hoffman (Brangäne)*
Wiener Philharmoniker
Hans Knappertsbusch

Birgit Nilsson, soprano