19 August 2009

Hildegard Behrens dies at 72

One of the finest Wagnerian dramatic sopranos after WWII, Hildegard Behrens, died Tuesday in a hospital in Tokyo at the age of 72.

Hildegard Behrens's career as a singer began in 1971. In 1973 she became an ensemble member of Deutschen Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf-Duisburg and (in 1974) also a member of Oper Frankfurt. After some minor roles she sang Marie in Alban Berg's "Wozzeck". In 1976 she made her début at Covent Garden as Leonore (Fidelio) and at the Metropolitan as Giorgetta (Il tabarro).

Hildegard Behrens's international career rocketed when Herbert von Karajan offered her the lead role in Richard Strauss's "Salome" at the Salzburg Festival in 1977.

Her career centred around the operas of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Mozart. She can be heard as Brünnhilde on the recordings of Der Ring des Nibelungen conducted by respectively James Levine (also released on DVD) and Wolfgang Sawallisch (also released on VHS). Behrens delivered a wonderful performance as Isolde on Leonard Bernstein's recording of Tristan und Isolde (1981).

Hildegard Behrens sang Brünnhilde at the Bayreuth Festival in the Peter Hall / George Solti Ring (1983-86).

Hildegard Behrens appeared regularly on opera stages all over the world, with conductors like Herbert von Karajan, Karl Böhm, Leonard Bernstein, James Levine and Wolfgang Sawallisch.

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