should be on German opera, yet Nilsson’s Italian roles should not be overlooked. Carlo Bergonzi was ‘amazed at how well she could shape legato lines’. Recurring praise for her Lady Macbeth makes it regrettable that she had to cancel the Met 1964 broadcast. Clips in the documentary offer tantalizing evidence of her high D flat, as well as the C in Aida’s ‘O patria mia’.
■ As Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera
Early performances include a 1953 Stockholm Duke Bluebeard’s Castle, in which she aptly registers Judith’s trepidation and even vulnerability, and an appealing, if unremarkable, Elsa from her Bayreuth debut year of 1954, with Astrid Varnay, Windgassen and Hermann Uhde conducted by Eugen Jochum. The last role Nilsson undertook was the Dyer’s Wife in Die Frau ohne Schatten, heard in an outstanding 1977 performance from the Bayerische Staatsoper conducted by Sawallisch (which nicely complements her Vienna account with Böhm on DG). It is good to re-encounter the impassioned Empress of Ingrid Bjoner and the musically astute Barak of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (who sang on Joseph Keilberth’s earlier Munich set).
Nilsson’s vocal radiance and clarity as the Dyer’s Wife bring to mind a 1980 interview with Irving Kolodin in which she confirmed the critic’s impression that her vocal production had become more forward—this resulted in clearer vowels and a brighter sound, but really represented another instance of ‘slenderizing’ the voice. Still, she can occasionally sound unwieldy, as in a 1970 Rome RAI Fidelio, a gripping performance led by Leonard Bernstein, with Ludovic Spiess and Theo Adam. Yet ‘Tödt erst sein Weib’ is stunning, and she sings her first phrase of the Quartet with a delicacy to match what Helen Donath had just sung before. After Nilsson’s Covent Garden debut in 1957, Ernest Newman, then near 90, pronounced himself happy ‘to have lived long enough to hear and see a young Brünnhilde of such present accomplishment and future promise’. Myself, I am happy to have been born early enough to have seen and heard her more than 25 times.
Obituary John Tyrrell British musicologist, in Beeston, Nottingham, on October 4, aged 76. He was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe), on 17 August 1942 and studied at the University of Cape Town, then at Oxford where he wrote his PhD on Janáček’s operas. Author of several of the most important books on Janáček in any language, his vast learning was lightly worn—it was often shared in disc notes and programme books. Almost anyone going to see a Janáček opera in Britain in the last 40 years probably read a note by Tyrrell written with his familiar combination of wisdom and clarity. Many others will have read his superbly informative booklet essays for the Decca series of Janáček operas conducted by Charles Mackerras. He was also involved
Opera, December 2018