Hildegard Behrens, one of the great Wagnerian sopranos of her day, passed away on Tuesday aged 72. Here is an obituary of her from The Times which recounts, among other things, the way her legal training startled managers who weren't expecting her to negotiate her own contracts, and a wonderful story about performing Marlene Dietrich songs with Leonard Bernstein.
She was my first Brunnhilde, sending me sky high at Covent Garden alongside Siegfried Jerusalem and Bernard Haitink. It was her very vulnerability that made her so appealing in the role, so human and so convincing with that warm and direct voice; not the largest of Wagnerian tones, perhaps, but one of the most beautiful. And I'll never forget the night we emerged from Siegfried, all ready for the Twilight of the Gods, to find a notice up at Charing Cross Station declaring MRS T HAS RESIGNED.
So, to bid her farewell, here she is in the Immolation Scene of Gotterdammerung from The Met, possibly in 1989 (though I'm afraid I don't know who is conducting - if anyone can fill in that blank, please do so!).
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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