The person

Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) was one of the great classical singers of the 1900’s. Despite her great success as an international artist, she never forgot her family and her childhood on the farm in Svenstad in southern Sweden. With her humbleness, humor and great interest in her native village, she was beloved by many people.

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Birgit in her small kitchen at Alden Hotel i New York. Private photo.

Birgit was a humorous and exuberant person with a love for telling stories, both as a child and as an adult. It is said that she inherited her father’s physique and her mother’s voice, and that she showed an interest in song and music at an early age. Birgit grew up in the southern Swedish countryside, a life far from that she was to live as an opera star. But she worked hard to reach her goal and her long career on the great stages of the world. Her home was her sanctuary from life as a world-famous star. She always tried not to bring her work home with her. When at home, she enjoyed time with her husband Bertil and tried to relax with something other than opera. Privately, she loved cooking, spending time in the garden, cuddling with the family cats, or attending auctions. During her many travels, Birgit never forgot those at home. She wrote many letters an postcards to family, friends, old teachers and other acquaintances and asked about life at home. As often as possible, she visited her father in Svenstad.

Birgit Nilsson in "This is your life"

In the programme series ”This is your life” ("Här är ditt liv"), which Swedish Television aired between 1980-1991, Lasse Holmqvist kidnapped Birgit Nilsson in the last programme of the second season. Here you can view the entire programme, in Swedish, which was originally aired on May 30, 1981. View the show on SVT's Open Archive (opens in a new tab)