On a cloud

Hildegard Behrens © Ira Nowinski/CORBIS

Hildegard Behrens © Ira Nowinski/CORBIS

Hildegard Behrens – curtain call after a performance of Götterdämmerung. Last night she took her last bow. After feeling unwell while teaching in Japan she was brought to a hospital in Tokyo where she died of an apparent aneurysm (a localized, blood-filled dilation of a blood vessel caused by disease or weakening of the vessel wall. Aneurysms most commonly occur in arteries at the base of the brain  and in the aorta. As the size of an aneurysm increases, there is an increased risk of rupture, which can result in severe hemorrhage or other complications including sudden death.)

Born 1937 in the North of Germany, near Oldenburg, she represented those singers using their head for things other than only resonance. She studied law (as far as I remember almost up to the last exam) before she couldn’t ignore singing any longer. Herbert von Karajan apparently heard her during a rehearsal, shortly after she began her professional career, and engaged her for a major role, which meant her break through.

And as there is so much talk about opera singers carrying on after being injured: she is amongst this tough crowd. In New York, a giant overhead rubber foam block hit her when Walhalla collapsed prematurly during the last scene of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. She was able to walk off stage on her own before being taken to hospital. She broke her hip jumping off the Castel San Angelo in Tosca – apparently, the soft mat she was supposed to land on was misplaced. She also believed that one soprano can be friends with one another. Her good friend, the Bulgarian Opera Singer Anna Tomowa-Sintow, must have shown up so many times at her house, that Behrens’ son ended up marrying Tomova-Sintow’s daughter…. Numerous clips on YouTube will keep her in our memory.


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