Opera fans are mourning the death of Hildegard Behrens at the age of 72. The native of Freiburg, Germany studied to be a lawyer, but opted for a singing career instead. She made some occasional forays into Italian opera. Here she is as Tosca:
Fascinatingly, she also did some Czech opera as well. (I never heard her as Janáček’s Katya Kabanova, but I have no trouble believing she was great in that role.) However, she was not surprisingly most at home the German repertoire, and she was a great Wagnerian soprano, a voice type that’s always in short supply. She had the sheer volume to cut through an orchestra playing at full roar, but her voice was beautiful, too, and her technique was always firm. You can get an idea of her stage presence in this clip from Alban Berg’s always-disturbing Wozzeck, where the fear in her eyes is all too real just before her character is murdered by her insane soldier boyfriend:
I wish that clip had included the first scene of Act III, where she let loose some blood-curdling outbursts of “Herr Gott!” If you want a bigger dose of her greatness, check out this clip of her in Richard Strauss’ Elektra, swearing revenge for her father’s murder. This is an exhausting stretch, with high note after high note, and she never loses control as she evokes the ecstasy of Elektra’s fantasy of making a thick fog out of the steam from her enemies’ blood.
Wow! She left behind no shortage of either audio recordings or performances on videotape. Seek one of them out and pay tribute to this powerhouse of an artis