The artist

Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) was one of the greatest Opera singers of the twentieth century. Her superb voice and musicality was praised by critics and audiences alike. For several decades, Birgit Nilsson was the leading dramatic soprano in the world, and a legendary interpreter of Wagner.

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Salome in New York 1965. Metropolitan Opera Archives

Swedish Birgit Nilsson made her debut on the opera stage in Stockholm in 1946 and quickly became popular in Europe and the rest of the world. Soon she was Sweden's most recognized opera singer internationally. When Birgit Nilsson ended her long career in 1984, she had, through a combination of hard work, musical talent and great focus of purpose, successfully conquered many of the world's opera scenes with an impressively broad repertoire. She sang everything from Mozart to operas of Richard Strauss and Giacomo Puccini, but it was the music of Richard Wagner that defined her career. There could be no doubt that Birgit Nilsson loved to sing and to perform on stage! "Festively dressed, expectant audience. You try your voice for the 511th time and approach the stage with your favorite throat lozenge in place. Your heart pounds. You feel alone and exposed, wanting to run and hide somewhere. The overture nears completion. The curtain rises. And then the onslaught of nerves is replaced by something else: a welcoming applause, seemingly unworldly, floods over me. The audience stands up in the stalls. A lump forms in the throat. This is a moment in which self-control is difficult. Now is the time to give it all, and with the audience’s help, aspire towards greatness. All trivial problems are blown away. It is wonderful to sing! Is there any more wonderful profession than mine?" - Birgit Nilsson, 1974.