Tributes & Obituaries - Blogs (UK): Farewell to a LEGEND, Adieu LUMIÈRE...
In Memoriam: Hildegard Behrens


SEEN AND HEARD OBITUARY

Hildegard Behrens: an appreciation by Göran Forsling (GF)


Truly great dramatic sopranos – especially exponents of the heaviest Wagnerian roles Isolde and Brünnhilde – tend to emerge only one or two per generation. Frida Leider, who dominated the roles during the 1920s and 1930s, was succeeded by Kirsten Flagstad from the mid-30s, who in her turn abdicated in the mid-50s, when Astrid Varnay and Birgit Nilsson were ready to step into her shoes. Nilsson at least reigned well into the 1970s and by then Hildegard Behrens was fully fledged and remained at the top of the trade for another two decades. Without in any way belittling the achievements of some other highly accomplished singers, I think it is fair to say that when she passed away at the age of 72 in a hospital in Tokyo on 18 August, she was the last in the royal line of great dramatic sopranos from the 20th century.

Like most of her predecessors, with the exception of Astrid Varnay, her international recognition came at a relatively mature age. Before embarking on a singing career she studied law and graduated as a junior barrister from the University of Freiburg. Her professional debut was as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro in 1971. She was then already in her mid-30s. After that she sang mainly minor roles at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf until she was discovered by Herbert von Karajan, who was looking for a Salome. He brought her to the Salzburg Festival in 1977, where she was a sensation, and from then on she was the dramatic soprano of her generation.

She sang at most of the leading opera houses of the world, including the Metropolitan, N.Y, where her debut role, somewhat surprisingly, was Giorgetta in Puccini’s Il tabarro. She sang other Italian roles as well and was among other things a great Tosca. But it was in the heavy German roles that she excelled. Her Leonora in Fidelio was one of her great impersonations and she was an Electra to reckon with. She may not have had the steely power of Birgit Nilsson but she is certainly one of the few truly great dramatic sopranos, enthralling audiences also through her acting ability.

Her recorded legacy comprises many of her most important roles and my personal choice would be Salome with Herbert von Karajan (EMI), Tristan und Isolde with Leonard Bernstein (Philips) and Der Ring des Nibelungen with James Levine (DG). These interpretations must be counted among the very best ever and will stand as a worthy memorial of Hildegard Behrens for generations to come.

http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2009/Jul-Dec09/behrens_obit.htm


The Eton Mess - Idle thoughts on culture, food and music

Brown Bread: Hildegard Behrens

I am much saddened to hear of the passing of Hildegard Behrens, of a ruptured aortic aneurism aged 72. In my limited experience of live opera she was one of the three great post-war Wagnerian sopranos along with Birgit Nilsson and Rita Hunter. They are all gone. Not only was hers a gorgeous voice she was a true actress with the deepest intelligence. Not only was she a singer she began her working life as a lawyer.

Behrens was one of the major performers of the second half of the twentieth century. Her professionalism and musicality set the benchmark in the German repertoire. She will be greatly missed.

Behrens was not only a fine singer with a bright, incisive soprano, but a singing actress of rare power and intellect. I have memories of her as Marie at Covent Garden (my first Wozzeck in the theatre, an overpowering evening for a number of reasons) and on records as Brunnhilde in the complete Sawallisch Ring – the finest recorded cycle of the stereo era – and delivering a remarkable Isolde in Bernstein’s eccentric, infuriating, absurdly slow and mannered but intermittently rather glorious Tristan.

Hildegard Behrens sang Brunnhilde in a complete Ring Cycle under Haitink in concert performances in Birmingham’s Symphony Hall a little over a decade ago (also featuring John Tomlinson and Siegfried Jerusalem inter alia). She was sensational – and she took the time to mingle with a group of stage door loiterers after Götterdämmerung on the Saturday night, wherein she seemed utterly sweet and delightful.

R.I.P. Hildegard Behrens 1937-2009


http://etonmess.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/brown-bread-hildegard-behrens/


A Star Fell


Today I learnt of the death, aged 72, of Hildegard Behrens, another star who this time meant so much to my operatic wunderjahren. It was 1978 and I was 16: I'd been turned into an incipient opera queen hungry for Sutherland by mamma, who'd seen the Bell Song from Lakme in some film or other. But I was slowly coming to realise that much of the rep Joanie sang, including that season Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, wasn't quite to my taste. I wanted Strauss, Wagner. And having just bought the LPs of Behrens's Salome with Karajan, I was thrilled to bits to go to a friends rehearsal of the Royal Opera production. She stunned me with that odd, silvery sound and that terrifying development from innocent to harpy. I went backstage and the lady, clad in a leopardskin coat and with huge false eyelashes, was charm itself. She wrote 'Best wishes for you' on the back of the cast-list (in which I note John Tomlinson sang Fifth Jew) and signed my EMI booklet not just on her photo


but also on the booklet's cover, across the midriff of a naked dancing princes who, surprise, surprise, didn't do much for me.

Since then I saw Behrens's Elektra twice, relished her Met Brunnhilde and her Dyer's Wife for Solti on CD and will always remember her great singing acting as synonymous with my own musical growing-up.

http://davidnice.blogspot.com/2009/08/star-fell.html



Friday, 21 August 2009

More about Hildegard

Following my personal memories further down in 'A star fell', I had the honour of writing Hildegard Behrens's obituary for The Guardian, now up and running here. The newspaper version has a splendid full-length colour portrait of La B as Brunnhilde, managing to look austerely beautiful in the unattractive weeds of Otto Schenk's hideously dressed Met production.

We must have a clip of Behrens at her most idiosyncratic. There are three YouTube chunks of her in 1994 as Strauss's Elektra. I thought the final dance of death was a bit close to the bone, so here's the big soliloquy. Levine's conducting is pretty fine, too.

http://davidnice.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html




HILDEGARD BEHRENS: she makes music worth seeing!

PROFILE     PORTRAITS     PERFORMANCES     DISCOGRAPHY     AWARDS     QUOTES
BRÜNNHILDE     ELEKTRA      SALOME      FIDELIO     ISOLDE     MARIE     SENTA
THE KOSTELNICKA      THE WOMAN 'R'       KUNDRY     DIE LUSTIGE WITWE

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HILDEGARD BEHRENS
supersoprano*

Saddened by her passing,
we celebrate her life.

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(in English, German, Spanish, French, or Italian)

* ...a super soprano in almost every sense."
- New York Times
READ full quote.

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~~~
OVATION:
Elektra

Brünnhilde


PAUSE / STOP
Opening music



LISTEN / WATCH!
(Thanks to all who posted media
on YouTube and allowed
embedding of same.)

Excerpts from:

"Dich teure Halle"
-Tannhäuser

Immolation scene
-Götterdämmerung

Final scene
- Salome

"Allein, weh ganz allein" 
"Orest!"
- Elektra


"Mild und Leise"
-Tristan Und Isolde

"Jojohoe"
- Der fliegende Holländer

"Komm, Hoffnung"
-Fidelio

"Wiegenlied"
- Wozzeck

"Bien, mon fils!"
- Guercouer

Aria from Jenufa
- Behrens as the Kostelnicka


Aria from Cronaca del luogo
- Behrens as the Woman "R"


"Und ob die Wolke sie verhulle"
- Der Freischutz

"Es gibt ein Reich"
- Ariadne auf Naxos


"Song to the Moon"
-Rusalka
(sung in German)


"Da liegt nun der gute Topf..."
-as the Mother in Hansel und Gretel


"Ein Handwerk verstehst..."

-as the Dyer's Wife in
Die Frau ohne Schatten


"Seit ich ihn gesehen"
- from Schumann's
Frauenliebe und Leben


"Bist du bei mir"


"Träume"
( Monte Carlo 1978)
- from Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder


"Leb wohl"
- sung by James Morris



  VIDEOS

METROPOLITAN OPERA:
IMMOLATION SCENE-
GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG

DIE WALKÜRE - Act3

BAVARIAN STATE OPERA:
DIE WALKÜRE - Act2
DIE WALKÜRE - Act3
FINAL DUET - SIEGFRIED
DUET -GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG


ELEKTRA
"ALLEIN, WEH GANZ ALLEIN"
MET

TRIER ANTIKENSPIELE
TEATRO COLON


"OREST!" - MET
"OREST!" - PARIS OPERA
FINAL SCENE - MET



"Liebestod"
- from 1981 recording with
Leonard Bernstein, cond.
TRISTAN UND ISOLDE



"Vissi d'arte"
TOSCA - MET


Elettra's aria
IDOMENEO - MET


Kusatsu Festival /
Japan 2007:

PIERROT LUNAIRE
MASTERCLASS

MITTERNACHTSTÜCK
BEETHOVEN FESTSIPELE- BONN
BERLIN


BEHRENS on the PASSING
of PAVAROTTI


BEHRENS on HER TOSCA
with PAVAROTTI


BEHRENS on the MET's
100th ANNIVERSARY (1983)



CURRENTLY STREAMING:
- FREE and under license from OPERA TODAY:
FIDELIO
with HILDEGARD BEHRENS,
KARL BÖHM conducting

(includes complete libretto)



A PARTIAL DISCOGRAPHY

The Very Best of
HILDEGARD BEHRENS


Götterdämmerung

Die Walküre

Salome

Elektra-Boston Symphony

ELEKTRA -Montpellier

FIDELIO (Böhm)

FIDELIO
(Solti)

WOZZECK

MORE - CDs/DVDs



INTRODUCTORY REMARKS
by HILDEGARD BEHRENS


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