Friday, August 21, 2009
Remembering Hildegard Behrens
I did not immediately jump to my keyboard when the news of Hildegard Behrens' death first broke. However, having now read Joshua Kosman's excellent San Francisco Chronicle obituary for her, I realize that I have a few personal points to add. Without in any way trying to diminish either her talent or her stature, Behrens was, for me, the "post-Nilsson" soprano, since she took on many of the roles that I had most enjoyed hearing Birgit Nilsson perform. Through accidents of personal timing, I did not have a chance to hear Nilsson at the Metropolitan Opera until her final season there, when she sang the Dyer's Wife in Richard Strauss' opera, Die Frau ohne Schatten. My opportunities to hear Behrens at the Met were not much better, but I had the good fortune to see her sing Marie when the San Francisco Opera performed Alban Berg's Wozzeck in 1999. I also remember being riveted by her Brünnhilde when Otto Schenk's staging of Richard Wagner's Ring for the Met was broadcast on Public Television. Those performances meant so much to me for so many reasons (Behrens' performance being just one of them) that the complete set is now part of my DVD collection, assuring Behrens of a rather firm place in my personal memory.