Without question the greatest singer I have ever heard, a person of great
intelligence on the stage and off and possessor of a sharp wit. The voice was
huge and powerful and without peer post-war. She could have relied on voice alone
but persuaded one of the opera's great stage directors, Wieland Wagner, to
work with her and he taught her a great deal about stage movement. She became a
fine, committed actress as well.
I was in her presence a number of times and she could not have been more
charming. Yet the stories about her wit are legion and she knew her worth.
One afternoon I was at the Met with about 6 people when she saw for the first
time a video of her performance at the gala that ended the Rudolf Bing era,
in 1972. (this was about 1990) She had sung the final scene from 'Salome' and
had insisted, tongue in cheek, during negotiations that the head she was given
to sing to be Mr. Bing's, with whom she had many a row. She was given the
place of honor, the last spot in the lengthy program, replete with operatic elite.
The ovation was enormous.
Someone in the room remarked that it was an amazing performance. She simply
said, "well, there was alot of competition that night.....Domingo, Pavarotti,
For her, the men were the competition, the other female singers in the world
(Caballe, Suitherland et al sang that night) were no competition, and you
know what, dear Birgit, you were right!!!!!
Rest easily in Valhalla.
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