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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Diva is Money!

"She is very easy to work with. You put money in, and a beautiful sound comes out."
--Former Metropolitan Opera general manager Sir Rudolf Bing, on Birgit Nilsson.
Birgit Nilsson, as Lady Macbeth.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

We here at the First International Bank of Superconductor (FIBS) have learned that Swedish diva Birgit Nilsson, one of the greatest sopranos of the 20th century, will be honored by having her picture placed on the Bank of Sweden's 500-krona note.

And no, this is not an April Fools' post.

Birgit Nilsson (1918-2005) was one of the most famous dramatic sopranos of the post-war era, appearing h around the world in the major roles of Wagner, Strauss and Puccini. (She referred to Puccini's Turandot as her "vacation" part.)

Ms. Nilsson was known for her fierce Valkyrie attitude and a silver sword of a voice that could cut easily through a thick Wagner orchestra. She also had a great sense of humor and no fear of powerful conductors. Confronting Herbert von Karajan about his dark-lit sets for Die Walküre, she showed up onstage in a miner's helmet--with Valkyrie wings attached.

Although she retired from singing in 1984, she taught young singers in her native Sweden and would still make the occasional appearance at the Met. Memorably, she "dropped in" at James Levine's 25th anniversary gala concert in 1996. La Nilsson toasted the maestro with a few short words and let out a keening "Ho-jo-to-ho!"

And for a moment it was as if she had never retired.
The Norwegian 100-kroner note, with Ms. Flagstad
Ms. Nilsson's honor follows that of Norwegian diva Kirsten Flagstad, who was granted a similar honor on that country's 100-kroner note.

The Nilsson bills will be issued by the Bank of Sweden in 2014.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.