Friday, January 13, 2006

A Valkyrie passes

'It's not over 'til the fat lady sings.' That popular line refers to the earth-shaking final scene of Wagner's four-day opera cycle, 'The Ring,' whose end is signalled in a glorious conflagration set alight by a generously endowed Valkyrie known as Brünnhilde. The soprano playing Brünnhilde needs to be generously endowed because she must be able to spend three days leaping around the scenery while still having the lung-power to be heard all the while above a 120-piece orchestra.

Birgit Nilsson (right) was undoubtedly the loudest Brünnhilde ever heard, and arguably the greatest ever recorded -- she was undoubtedly the Brünnhilde of the twentieth-century. And she has just died. She made the role of Brünnhilde her own and, for her, the fat lady has now sadly sung. Says The Telegraph:
Birgit Nilsson, who has died aged 87, was considered to be the greatest Wagnerian soprano of her day; she had a rock-solid technique and a voice of such soaring, unforced power that it was able to cut through the massed forces of a Wagnerian orchestra with ease, yet a purity of tone which enabled her to switch to the most delicate pianissimo.
I'll be playing Act III of Siegfried today in tribute, particularly 'Heil, dir Sonne!' (Hail to the Sun!) [Listen to the first twenty seconds here]. Farewell Birgit.

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