Birgit Nilsson (17 May 1918 – 25 December 2005) was a celebrated Swedish dramatic soprano who specialized in operatic and symphonic works. Her voice was noted for its overwhelming force, bountiful reserves of power and the gleaming brilliance and clarity in the upper register.
Birgit Nilsson came from a rural background and had to work hard to gain acceptance in the world of music, but she made so strong an imprint on many roles that they came to be known as the “Nilsson repertory”. She sang the operas of Richard Strauss and made a specialty of Puccini’s “Turandot”, but it was the music of Wagner that made her career; her command of his music was comparable to that of Kirsten Flagstad, who owned the Wagner repertory at the Metropolitan Opera during the years before World War II. At her peak, Nilsson astounded audiences in live performance with the unforced power of her voice, which cut through dense orchestration, and with her remarkable breath control, which allowed her to hold notes for a remarkably long time. Her interpretive powers grew as her career developed, and she became a moving artist as well as a vocal phenomenon. Among colleagues, she also became renowned for her playful sense of humor.