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Kirsten Flagstad died 50 years ago today

Why mark the date?

1 She was the greatest Isolde for half a century.

2 She taught the world how to sing Wagner (and how not)

3 She gave the world premiere of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs

4 She was the guiding conscience of Decca’s Ring

5 She, more than anyone, raised the singing at Covent Garden to world standards. See Covent Garden: The Untold Story, for chapter and verse.

Here’s a commemorative essay, and more, from the University of Warwick.

photo (c) Lebrecht Music&Arts

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  1. Michael Pearson says:

    Thank goodness that we have that recording of the first performance of Strauss’ Four last Songs even though it is a bit rough around the edges. Interestingly the violin solos were played by Max Salpeter who usually led The Philharmonia Orchestra when Furtw√§ngler conducted (rather than Manoug Parikian) because he was able to speak German. Salpeter was a terrific violinist who died a couple of years ago at the ripe old age of 101.

  2. I don’t think I could articulate why Flagstad’s voice still gives me goose bumps, but it does. Over the decades, not being much for unconditional fandom, I’ve often revised my opinion of certain great singers of the past. Not that one could find fault with the spectacular voice of someone like Melchior, for example, it’s the overall concept of the Melchior-type heldentenor that now seems rather pompous (please don’t send me any outraged comments, it’s just my opinion). Nor do I try to force myself to like Hans Hotter any longer, because his wobble drives me nuts even though the way he imbued words with meaning was magnificent.
    But Flagstad remains. There are many wonderful Isoldes, Sieglindes and Brunnhildes on recordings, but Flagstad’s voice simply rings out and strikes me as immediate, alive, just right.
    Never will you listen to Flagstad in an exchange between Sieglinde and Brunnhilde, or Isolde and Brangaene, and wonder, if only for a moment, which is which. Her voice was truly unique.

  3. I love Flagstad, but give me Helen Traubel any day!

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