Jane Eaglen Sings Unusual Tribute to Birgit Nilsson at Seattle Opera

Classic Arts News   Jane Eaglen Sings Unusual Tribute to Birgit Nilsson at Seattle Opera
It was Die Fledermaus with a Wagnerian twist at the Seattle Opera on January 14. As a tribute to Birgit Nilsson, the legendary Wagnerian who died last month, soprano Jane Eaglen sung Isolde's Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde during the party scene in Strauss's lighthearted operetta.

Seattle Opera general director Speight Jenkins decided to honor Nilsson by asking Eaglen, herself an acclaimed Wagnerian, to sing an aria closely associated with Nilsson in the second act of Die Fledermaus.

Writing in Slate, Eaglen said, "I was a little concerned that this wouldn't fit well into a comedy and would be difficult for the audience to accept, but [Jenkins] thought not, so on Saturday night, in the party scene, I did indeed sing Isolde, while dressed as a Hungarian countess."

"It struck me, while singing," writes Eaglen, "how much Birgit would have loved the idea of the Liebestod being performed during an operetta and probably would have laughed. She herself, on a recording of Fledermaus, sang "I Could Have Danced All Night" from My Fair Lady, so she was certainly game for a joke."

In the Slate article, Eaglen writes of the profound influence Nilsson had on her musical development. While an 18-year-old student at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, Eaglen recalls how her life "changed forever" upon hearing Nilsson singing Brunnhilde in a recording conducted by Georg Solti.

"To think, as an 18-year-old, that one day I would sing this amazing music that the most incredible human voice I had ever heard was singing didn't seem possible."

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