Debut in Vienna, 1954

Birgit Nilsson’s first performance in Vienna, Austria was in 1954. She then sang there at intervals for more than 25 years and performed there over 200 times.


Aida 1954. Photo: Fayer, Vienna


Isolde 1967. Photo: Fayer, Vienna

In the spring of 1954, Birgit made her first entrance in Vienna. She was to give a special performance at the Theater an der Vienna with four different roles in nine days, for the very first time in their original languages: Elsa in Lohengrin, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Sieglinde in Die Walküre in German and Aida in Italian. All of Birgit’s performances were well-received and she was soon back in Vienna for new commissions. On March 23, 1957, Birgit had her own first opening night in the newly renovated opera house in Vienna, Viennese Staatsoper. Her role was as Brünnhilde in Die Walküre. Until this point she had only sung in already complete shows with little or few rehearsals. Herbert von Karajan, who had succeeded Karl Böhm as the new opera director, both directed and conducted. The opening night was a success and there were much praise in the newspapers the following day. The Viennese audience showed its appreciation in many different ways throughout the years. In 1968 Birgit was ”betrothed” with them. For the premiere of Tristan and Isolde, the audience in the stalls had taken up a collection and commissioned a gold ring with Isolde’s portrait engraved on it. ”Through the years I have received many mementos of appreciation, but this gift is among those which have moved me and given me the most joy”, wrote Birgit in her memoirs in 1995. In 1968 Birgit became both Austrian Court Singer, and Honorary member of the Vienna State Opera, a rare honour. In 1999 she also became an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic.