The farewell performance

Birgit Nilsson’s career was impressively long, she performed at operas and concert halls throughout the world for almost 40 years. In 1982, Birgit Nilsson made her final opera performance, in Frankfurt in the roll of Elektra. Afterwards, she told her colleagues, ”This was my final performance, ever.”

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Birgit Nilsson, 1959. Photo: Fayer, Vienna

A dignified farewell had been planned for Birgit in conjunction with a performance of Die Färberin in Vienna on June 30, 1982. But Birgit felt that she could not take a formal goodbye and all of the audience’s sympathy. She herself had cried through many farewell performances. Thus, she cancelled her Vienna performance. Instead, the opera Elektra in Frankfurt on June 16 became her last. In 1984 she made her final public appearance during a concert tour in Germany. "It is difficult to end at the right time. What is the right time, anyway? Is it when one’s voice is at its epitome, while one as an artist and human being have not reached full maturity? Or should one accept that the voice loses some of its full range, and try to share instead what one has learned in the school of life?" – Birgit Nilsson, La Nilsson 1995.

Life after opera

After Birgit Nilsson had stepped down from the major opera stages of the world, she had the opportunity to increase her engagement for her native town in Sweden. There she continued to arrange concerts in support of the local history society of Bjäre Härad. She gladly shared her experiences and encouraged young talent by holding master’s classes in Sweden, Bergen, Washington, Los Angeles, Hannover and Tammerfors, to name a few. Birgit Nilsson lived a long and eventful life. She died peacefully in the home she shared with her husband in Sweden on Christmas day, 2005. She was 87 years old. Her song still inspires singers, fans and opera enthusiasts around the world.