Isolde in Richard Wagner’s opera Tristan and Isolde was one of Birgit Nilsson’s show-piece roles. As many as 208 performances of Isolde were performed during her almost 40-year long career.


Isolde 1959. Metropolitan Opera Archives

In 1953 Birgit sang her first Isolde at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm. ”Isolde is for all dramatic sopranos a dream come true, and I was blissful with happiness when I was able to take over the part.” – Birgit Nilsson, My Memoirs in Pictures, 1977. For Birgit, the role of the Irish princess Isolde was the most interesting role interpretation, one she never felt she fully realized. It was her belief that there were great depths to Isolde and that one always found new dimensions to the character. Birgit performed Isolde on many of the great stages of the world. In 1954 she sang Isolde for the first time in Vienna at the Theater an der Vienna. Even her debut in 1955 at the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires was with this role. During 1957-1970 she sang this role a number of times in Bayreuth. In 1959 Birgit made her debut as Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The opening night became a high point in her career.