« Book Review | Main | Ambition »


What a grey day! The cupola of St Joseph's Church is damp-dark down to its waist, but no further, so the wet can't be very heavy. But the white glare of the fogged light is almost deathly. It looks as though the idea of a future, any future, has been retired. This is it.

News has reached us of Birgit Nilsson's death. Born in 1918, the singer had long since retired, but she remains a dear presence on recordings, and an even more lively one in the memory of our correspondent PPOQ, to whom she was and perhaps now more than ever is "The Goddess." By a curious circumstance, I was just listening to the sleepwalking scene from Verdi's Macbeth the other night. I wish that Nilsson had sung more Verdi. She sang German music with transcendental aplomb, but I never felt that she believed in it. Here she is as the guilt-haunted Lady, singing "Una macchia è qui tuttora."


TrackBack URL for this entry:


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 sang the final scene from 'Salome' and had insisted 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, Vickers, Tucker...."

For those non-operatic souls who are reading this, she was referring to the MEN: for her the other female singers in the world were no competition, and you know what, dear Birgit, you were right!!!!!

Rest easily in Valhalla.

I am a kottke.org micropatron

Powered by
Movable Type 3.2