Throwback Thursday: Kirsten Flagstad (#tbt)

Thursday, May 08, 2014 - 12:00 AM

WQXR
Kirsten Flagstad debuts in Die Walkure at the Metropolitan Opera Kirsten Flagstad debuts in Die Walkure at the Metropolitan Opera (Metropolitan Opera Archives)

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Throwback Thursday (#tbt) is a weekly opportunity to remember musical legends from the past who ignite our passion for opera. Every Thursday on the Operavore stream we feature a #tbt artist throughout the day. This week we throw it back to Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad. 

Flagstad (1895-1962) has been called "The Voice of the Century" by many a critic. She started out singing at the Opera Comique in her hometown of Oslo, Norway where she played roles like Marguerite in Faust or Desdemona in Otello. For ten years she sang lyric soprano roles before finding her voice. In 1928 she joined the Stora Theater of Göteborg, Sweden. A year later, she began taking on heavier roles, like Tosca, Aida and Isolde from Tristan und Isolde.

Shortly thereafter, the Metropolitan Opera came calling. For a few years she ignored their letters and even considered giving up on opera altogether. It wasn't until the summer of 1934 that she agreed to audition as a replacement for Frida Leider. Her Met debut came in 1935 as Sieglinde in Die Walküre. The performance was broadcast live on the radio. During the intermission feature, fellow opera singer Geraldine Ferrar called her a star. Flagstad went on to perform 100 times at the Met before she moved back to occupied Norway in 1941 to join her husband who was living there (a move for which she received a lot of criticism). 

She continued to perform in theaters around Europe, including four seasons at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Flagstad ultimately returned to the Met in 1951, when she was well into her 50s. She retired from the stage a few years later. 

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Thursday Highlights on the Operavore Stream:

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

Wagner: Tannhauser

Beethoven: Fidelio

Wagner: Die Walküre

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Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream, blog and weekly radio show devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns and Amanda Angel. The stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings. The Operavore radio show on WQXR, features opera news bulletins from the around the globe, previews of new recordings, and interviews with the players and personalities on the scene.

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