I count myself lucky for having been witness to the Nilsson miracle a
number of times.
My first time to see her live was in the new production of Salome in the
old Met. Her recording (with one of the most bilious covers in the
history of album design) had been one of my earliest complete opera
purchases. Because my home venue of Dallas didnt feature German opera, I
didnt get to see/hear her live until that 1965 evening. But I went to 3
of those Salomes, and if it wasn't the sexiest ever (Mattila certainly up
there), it was sexy enough, and vocally made the recording sound like a
Several of the posters have commented on the "cut" of her voice. That I
think was again demonstrated in Salome, but this time in concert at
Carnegie Hall with Solti and the Chicago. To say that Solti would like to
let those incomparable brass feel their "oats" is an understatement, but
those fine gentlemen had no oats to compare to Birgit. With that huge
orchestra behind her, NOT in the pit, she was not in the least daunted.
She rode the orchestra without oversinging, but with focus and volume just
enough to let you know who was the star.
A Nilsson Corelli Turandot in Philadelphia's Academy of Music not long
afterward was another optimum meeting of two vocal lions. The EMI
recording is a nice souvenir of their partnership, but the impact is only
As an artist and as a person, she was an incredibly charming individual
with just the right mix of humor, salt, and genuine good will. I've never
heard anything but good in her dealings with fellow artists, and she gave
generously to her fans without becoming almost mauled by them.
For many of those used to Flagstad, there were sometimes cavils that her
voice was not as warm. As one who likes more than one flavor, let's just
say that NEITHER has had an equal since their departure from the stage.
Thanks for the many wonderful nights, esp. Salome, Elektra, Isolde,
Brunnhilde, Dyer's Wife, Turandot. She made many of us who arrived at
opera in the 50s 60s and 70s life-long opera fans. She gave 100% all the
time and made opera sound miraculous, easy, sensible, and fun.
Robert W. White
Bergen County Cooperative Library System (BCCLS)
810 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
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