Birgit Nilsson was the Swedish girl from Skåne who captivated the world when she became one of the biggest classical opera singers of the 20th century. Her legacy lives on thanks to her phenomenal voice but also the impression she made with her radiant personality. The Birgit Nilsson Museum, located in her old family home, showcases her life in fascinating exhibitions and hosts events that encourage the next generation of classical singers to believe in their craft and intrinsic worth as artists.

Birgit Nilsson was born in 1918 in Bjärehalvön, an idyllic part of Skåne in Sweden with a magnificent view over the Kattegat swells, surrounded by lush nature and billowing hills. Nilsson had a dream from an early age to become a singer and started performing in the one location where she could express her desire: Västa Karups Kyrka, the local church. At 23 years she was accepted into the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, setting in motion a monumental career on the international stage.

Her performances have included soprano roles such as Aida, Turandot, Tosca and Salome, and she is best known for her performances in the operas of Richard Strauss and Richard Wagner. The family house has been turned into a museum to commemorate her life and to benefit the musical community by promoting new talent.

An immortal voice: the legacy of Birgit Nilsson continues to inspire

Right: Costumes from Birgit Nilssons performances.

Puccini – love and art

This year, the museum’s theme is Puccini – love and art. Exhibitions under this theme will celebrate Nilsson’s huge admiration of the opera Tosca and others by the Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. The museum will host an exhibition in honour of the theme with unique media material, photographs, costumes from her performances and other memorabilia that will take the visitor through her outstanding career and involvement with the Puccini operas.

There are more than four hours of listening material and unique documentation. The intimate guided tour in the farmhouse, for groups of 12 at a time, allow each visitor an undisturbed experience, led by expert guides. “You will find yourself inside the house where Nilsson grew up, and in the surroundings that she loved deeply throughout her life. The café, Stallkaféet, offers cakes made from Nilssons own recipes; the whole place is simply steeped in her spirit, and many of our visitors say it’s the best museum experience of their lives,” says Gitte Lindström Harmark, CEO of Birgit Nilsson museum.

An immortal voice: the legacy of Birgit Nilsson continues to inspire

Birgit Nilsson museum.

The Birgit Nilsson Days
From 27 June, the annual theme and the museum season will build up to The Birgit Nilsson Days, an event that takes place from 6-12 August. This year, the event will culminate in an epic performance of Tosca by a choir over 100 strong, and a symphony orchestra conducted by Pier Giorgio Morandi. Lead singers include top international soloists Joyce El-Khoury, Michael Fabiano and John Lundgren, but also several Swedish singers such as Anton Ljungqvist, Rickard Söderberg, Fredrik Zetterström and Anders Lorentzon.

The week will commence with the Birgit Nilsson Masterclass where singers are invited to learn from Anne Sofie von Otter during four intense days, leading up to a closing concert at the Birgit Nilsson Concert Hall, Kulturhuset Ravinen, Båstad. “Tosca will be a grandiose showcase of local, national and international talent, an epic tale in beautiful surroundings. Nilsson was very fond of this opera and to do it on her home ground feels extra special,” says Lindström Harmark.

A powerful legacy

The Birgit Nilsson scholarship, awarded to young and promising singers every year on Nilsson’s birthday on the 17 May, turns 50 this year, and the anniversary will be celebrated with a special ceremony featuring previous winners. The scholarship was established to encourage and support the next generation of young Swedish singers.

The Birgit Nilsson prize is another contribution to the world of classical music, awarded to artists and institutions who have made a significant impact on the perpetuation of their art form. The prize is awarded every three years and consists of a prize sum of one million US Dollars. “Nilsson became friends with everyone. She knew what she wanted, her worth and the extent of her talent, but she remained humble and connected with her roots. Her spirit lives on and still has an enormous impact on the next generation of singers and the musical community. Her spirit lives on and continues to have an enormous impact on the musical community, helping the next generation of singers to achieve their dreams,” Lindström Harmark concludes.

An immortal voice: the legacy of Birgit Nilsson continues to inspire

Concert during the Birgit Nilsson week.

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