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That is very sad news. I'd been hearing and enjoying many of her recordings last week; Seattle Opera General Director Speight Jenkins admired her Brunnhilde very much and has been using her in his Ring lectures as an example of a lighter voice in the role.

Rest in peace, Ms. Behrens.

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Fortunately for us, videos of Ms. Behrens' performances as Brunnhilde, Tosca, and Elettra in Mozart's Idomeneo are preserved on the Metropolitan Opera's Metplayer. I enjoyed watching these earlier this year. Behrens was an excellent singer and actress, and this is a very sad loss for the opera world.

Here is a longer article with a more complete account of her career: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/arts/mus...rss&emc=rss

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....in his Ring lectures as an example of a lighter voice in the role.

At a cost, alas.

This is very sad. She had a wonderful voice at her peak. Thank you for posting the news, Hans.

NYT obituary

In her prime she was a complete vocal artist, a singer whose warm, textured voice could send phrases soaring. Her top notes could slice through any Wagner orchestra. Her technique made heavy use of chest voice, an approach that would eventually take a toll on her singing. Many purists argued that Ms. Behrens was no born Wagnerian. Her voice lacked the penetrating solidity of a Kirsten Flagstad or the clarion brilliance of a Birgit Nilsson.

Yet with her deep intelligence, dramatic fervor and acute emotional insights, she made her voice do what the music and the moment demanded. A beautiful woman with dark hair and a slender athletic frame, she was a poignant actress capable of fits and temperamental flashes onstage. She was riveting as Wagner’s Isolde, a role she recorded with Leonard Bernstein conducting; Senta from “Der Fliegende Holländer”; and, especially, Brünnhilde.

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Thank you indeed, Mashinka and Germaine Greer. So much of the commentary/reviews of Ms. Behrens has ranged from damning with faint praise to really vicious that it is nice to read such a heartfelt appreciation. An example of this is from the John Rockwell review of her in "Gotterdammerung" from 1990: "Of the principals, Hildegard Behrens as Brunnhilde was announced as suffering from a cold, and she has an inconsistent, patched-together dramatic soprano anyhow. But she sang well enough, and her dramatic involvement goes a long way toward compensating for her vocal eccentricities."

She appeared as the "Valkyries" Brunhilde on the Met broadcast in (I think) 1995, also under Levine and so much had been written about how her voice was in shreds, that she might have the high notes but her middle was gone, ad nauseum that it was a real heart in the mouth experience for her fans, one of which I was. The big draw was Domingo singing his first Siegfried but the hero could have been sung by Mickey Mouse for all the difference it made to those who wanted to hear if Behrens could still sing the role. She did and was wonderful. I will have to dig out the tape of that performance...it has to be somewhere.

Behrens was the best "Fidelio" I have ever experienced--vocally and dramatically it was perfect for her. Greer is only too right about her "Tosca". In the video with Domingo as Cavaradossi it is hard to concentrate on the music because her appearance is so un-Tosca-ish.

A great singer, a great actress, a real creature of the stage whose recordings were sublime. She will be greatly missed throughout the music world.

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