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Subject: Re: Birgit Nilsson Great Streaming Documentary
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 10 Jan 2018 09:35:39 -0600
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Bravo to Bob Rideout!

     I've been a rock-solid Birgit Nilsson fan ever since I first heard her as a teenager.  It was her voice that always made me think of Godzilla.  Her Wagnerian work was marathon to be sure.  She may have lacked the warmth and that majestic sound of Flagstad (herself sublime and another of my "pets"), but she had a javelin voice that could cut through the largest orchestra and reduce it to a string ensemble.  I saw and heard her countless times in Chicago and New York.  When she did a Wagner/Strauss concert at the Hollywood Bowl, people joked that they could probably hear her on Wilshire Boulevard.  I saw her in the Ring, Isolde, Fidelio, Elektra, Salome, and of course, Turandot, which for her was a cakewalk.  No soprano since Nilsson has been able to shoulder this repertoire and sustain it as Nilsson did.

     She may not have been as suited to the Italian idiom as she was to the Wagner/Strauss repertoire, but as Bob said, she was NEVER challenged by the music.  She considered Turandot "my vacation role" because it's so short, and it enabled her to undertake her Wagnerian and Strauss roles right alongside of it.  She sang a compact series of five performances of Turandot in Chicago, sold out the performances, and delivered the goods in spades with aces to spare.  Just eight weeks later, she was back in Chicago for a recital.  Moreover, in 1974, she undertook performances of "Gotterdammerung" at the Chicago Opera, and within a matter of weeks was back in a concert performance of Salome under Solti that caused a hysterical reaction at Orchestra Hall.  The voice was overpowering and overwhelming, and I can still see her standing center stage in a moss green gown.

     Opera has been greatly diminished since her retirement.  I consider myself so lucky and fortunate to have had the opportunity to experience Nilsson as often as I did.  With all due reverence and respect to Kirsten Flagstad, I consider Nilsson her true successor (as different as they were).  It's a very long way from where we are today.


> On January 10, 2018 at 7:55 AM Bob Rideout wrote:
> 
> 
>     Tom and list
> 
>     I saw Nilsson in several Italian roles, Tosca not among them.
>     I'm pretty much in agreement with Max Paley on the "warmth"
>     business. I saw her first Met Aida and it struck me as a
>     superb performance, including very secure piani. I was very
>     happy (it was also the night of Biserka Cvejic's Met debut,
>     promising much more than was ultimately delivered). I
>     returned for another Nilsson Aida a season or two later, and I
>     could hardly believe my reaction. What had seemed so right
>     the first time, came off as a parody of Italian opera, and the
>     voice, though never defeated by music, was beyond chilly.
>     Comments about another singer from an earlier time skating
>     on the frozen Nile seemed totally appropriate. Ditto her
>     Amelia in Ballo. Leonie's voice was much more suited to the
>     Italian idiom, though the less said about her vocalism, the
>     better.
> 
>     Nilsson's Lady Macbeth was very well sung and acted. I had
>     no expectations and was most pleasantly surprised. She was
>     able to convince me that she knew what the role was all
>     about, and she negotiated the many tricky vocal passages
>     with real conviction.
> 
>     I saw Turandot at least a dozen times, and was blown away
>     every time. She and Corelli were thrilling beyond my ability
>     to describe, especially in the "Figlio del Cielo" section. "Wow"
>     doesn't begin to do it justice.
> 
>     Bob
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
>     On Wed, Jan 10, 2018 at 08:18 tom ponti wrote:
> 
>         > > I mostly saw Nilsson in Italian Opera, in that I am not a big fan of most
> >         of the Ring Operas. I saw a Saturday afternoon Ballo with Tucker. What I
> >         remember about the performance is the duet in which both were thrilling. I
> >         saw her Tosca not long after seeing Callas, and though she sang it very
> >         well, her acting was almost funny at times. I saw her Lady MacBeth and
> >         really don't recall much about it. Turandot, could have been composed for
> >         her, as just about everyone would agree. Nilsson's was never my favorite
> >         soprano voice, but it was a great one with an incredible upper register. If
> >         only Crespin had nearly as secure an upper register, she could have been
> >         one of the very greatest. Still, even without a secure upper voice, Regine
> >         is one of my all time favorite sopranos.
> > 
> > 
> >         ________________________________
> >         From: Discussion of opera and related issues
> >         on behalf of Maxwell Paley
> >         Sent: Wednesday, January 10, 2018 3:07 AM
> >         To: [log in to unmask] mailto:[log in to unmask] .ORG
> >         Subject: Re: [OPERA-L] Birgit Nilsson Great Streaming Documentary
> > 
> >         I don’t think it’s inane. Her very slender vowels and minimal vibrato
> >         could be heard as “cold” and a number of people didn’t like her timbre and
> >         style in Italian opera, other than as Turandot.
> > 
> >         I never heard her live in “Ballo” but I like her studio recording and find
> >         her very passionate. I did hear live as Tosca and didn’t really like what I
> >         heard. Very loud throughout and rock solid top notes but very steely and
> >         little, I guess I have to say it, “warmth.”
> > 
> >         Max Paley
> > 
> >         Sent from my iPhone
> > 
> >             > > > On Jan 9, 2018, at 22:21, Operatics wrote:
> > > 
> > >             Yes, her Amelia - I remember some reviewer's inane comments about
> > > 
> > >         > > Nilsson's voice being cold - ( it must be cold because she comes from icy
> >         Sweden)!
> >         >
> > 
> >             > > > Estelle
> > > 
> > >                 > > > > On 1/9/2018 6:24 AM, k youngmann wrote:
> > > >                 And she wasn’t just limited to heavy roles. Her Amelia opposite di
> > > > 
> > > >             > > > 
> > >         > > Stefano’s Riccardo / Gustavo in Chicago back in ’59 generated some of the
> >         greatest applause I’ve ever heard, especially after the Act II duet.
> >         Gobbi’s Renato didn’t hurt the performance either!
> >         >>
> >         >> Kurt Youngmann
> >         >>
> >         >>> On Jan 9, 2018, at 7:42 AM, Bob Rideout wrote:
> >         >>>
> >         >>> Certainly, in my years of opera going, no one has come close
> >         >>> to Birgit Nilsson for vocal opulence and security in the heavier
> >         >>> Wagnerian roles, and in her prime, pre WWIi, there was no
> >         >>> singer who commanded greater tonal splendor than Kirsten
> >         >>> Flagstad.
> >         >>
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