Jack Mitchell/Getty ImagesBirgit Nilsson as Brnnhilde in the Metropolitan Operas production of Richard Wagners Gtterdmmerung, March 1974
You know youre getting old when your children turn forty, but what about when an idol of ones youth has a hundredth anniversary? So vivid are my memories of the incomparable Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson (19182005)by general consent the foremost female Wagner exponent in the second half of the twentieth century and my favorite of all the artists Ive ever seen in live performancethat it came as a shock to realize that this year is her centennial.
Several new releases commemorate the milestone, including two blockbuster CD sets: a seventy-nine-disc, two-DVD compendium, La Nilsson: The Complete Decca, Philips, and Deutsche Grammophon Recordings, with twenty-seven full-length operas and two Ring cycles; and a thirty-nine-CD compilation, Birgit Nilsson: The Great Live Recordings, which offers a further dozen complete operas plus several concerts. A lush photo album, Birgit Nilsson 100: An Homage, revisits her glory years at the zenith of the international opera worlds postwar resurgence. And Thomas Voigt and Wolfgang Wunderlichs hugely enjoyable documentary film