Royal Swedish Opera Archives Vol. 5 – Die Walküre

Birgit Nilsson, Elisabeth Söderström, Set Svanholm

In the complete recording of Richard Wagner’s “The Valkyrie” from the Royal Opera in Stockholm 1955–56 two phenomena are in focus: Birgit Nilsson’s first Brünnhilde, the first but utterly convincing sketch of an imminent world-famous interpretation of the role, and the Stockholm Opera’s fabulous Wagner ensemble, already going back several generations. At the same time this new production in April 1955 was the first Valkyrie at the Royal Opera to be sung in German, and the first that was conducted by Sixten Ehrling.

One can hear how the 37-year-old lion of the podium more or less cleared away the traditions and conducts, for that time – when Wilhelm Furtwängler and Hans Knappertsbusch were for the most part still the ideal – a thoroughly modern, powerfully dynamic, but lively and terse interpretation. Beside Birgit Nilsson sang both veterans and newcomers. The oldest soloist, the bass Sven Nilsson, born as far back as 1898, had sung Wagner in Dresden and London already in the 1930s. Set Svanholm was not only head of the Opera in Stockholm 1956–63, but was above all the world’s leading Wagner tenor and he conquered the stages in his heroic-tenor roles from Stockholm to New York, from Vienna to Buenos Aires. Sigurd Björling had been in the summer of 1951 Bayreuth’s first Wotan after World War II and he also embarked on an illustrious international career, above all as a Wagnerian singer.

Kerstin Meyer, only 28 years old, was a youthful Fricka. The production’s Sieglinde, the Norwegian soprano Aase Nordmo, well loved by Stockholm audiences since her debut in 1953, sang that role together with Nilsson also in Vienna and Bayreuth. And as was the tradition of the Stockholm Opera, the eight valkyries in the third act were sung by eight prominent female singers, among them Elisabeth Söderström and Kjerstin Dellert. That Sixten Ehrling’s modernist musical interpretation was not matched by any innovative staging, but had to get on together with a set going back to the 1920s – and when it came to the valkyries’ coats of mail and helmets, to the 1890s – is not something that today’s listeners need to worry about.

The production was recorded by someone with a microphone in hand from the side of the dress circle and for a long time the tape lay untouched in the archives of the Royal Opera. Not one bar of this material has been previously issued. On the contrary, it has been considered impossible to be able to ever again listen to the Royal Opera’s classic production from the middle of the last century of this most popular of operas in “The Ring of the Nibelung”.

The artists and the production of “The Valkyrie” are described extensively in the booklet included, which also takes up the place of Wagner and The Ring in the Swedish opera repertoire. And it gives a general picture of the rather unique activities and the outstanding artistic level of the Royal Swedish Opera during that period in the 1950s.

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Show playlist
    • CD 1
      • Die Walküre Music: Richard Wagner Text: Richard Wagner
        • 1.
          Prelude - Wes Herd dies auch sei
        • 2.
          Müd am Herd fand ich den Mann
        • 3.
          Ein Schwert verhiess mir der Vater
        • 4.
          Winterstürme wichen dem Wonnemond
    • CD 2
      • Die Walküre Music: Richard Wagner Text: Richard Wagner
        • 1.
          Prelude - Nun zäume dein Ross, reisige Maid!
        • 2.
          Schlimm fürcht ich, schloss der Streit
        • 3.
          Raste nu hier, gönne dire Ruh!
        • 4.
          Siegmund! Sieh auf mich!
    • CD 3
      • Die Walküre Music: Richard Wagner Text: Richard Wagner
        • 1.
          Zauberfest bezähmt ein Schlaf
        • 2.
          Ride of the Valkyries - Hojotoho! Hojotoho!
        • 3.
          Wo ist Brünnhild', wo die Verbrecherin?
        • 4.
          War es so schmählich
        • 5.
          Leb wohl, du kühnes, herrliches Kind!
  • Total playtime 221'15

Compact Disc // CAP 21765 // Royal Swedish Opera Archives // Opera // Releasedate: 13 December, 2005