The Norwegian singer began as a lyric soprano but an audition at the Met started her on the path for which she is best known, as a great Wagnerian soprano. Her Met debut in 1935 as Sieglinde was a sensation and over the next three decades she would become the Brünnhilde, Isolde and Senta of the day. She gave the premiere of Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs in London in 1950 under Furtwängler, with whom she would later record Isolde. She sang Fricka on Solti’s classic Decca recording of Das Rheingold.
Tribute by Deborah Voigt
Any singer who has performed the music of Wagner – and I’ve sung my fair share of Wagner roles – senses the shadow cast by Kirsten Flagstad, undoubtedly one of the greatest operatic voices of the 20th century. She possessed a truly gorgeous voice, with a tremendous legato that was one of the hallmarks of her artistry. No matter what she was singing, you never felt that she was pushing her voice. I have a very vivid memory of spending an evening with a fan who simply worshipped her, and I think we listened to just about everything Flagstad recorded over the course of five hours. What a beautiful sound! I’m told that her native Norway honoured her by, among other things, putting her on their currency. Seems appropriate given that she was an artist you could bank on for singing consistently at the highest level. On that note, maybe it’s time for America to replace Andrew Jackson on our $20 bill with a soprano!