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Swedish Opera Star Birgit Nilsson Dies at 87

Birgit Nilsson in 1969
Getty Images
Birgit Nilsson in 1969

Birgit Nilsson was raised to be a farmwife, but she was born to be a diva.

Over the objections of her father, Nilsson attended music school in Stockholm and eventually became a global star admired for her interpretations of composer Richard Wagner.

Alan Blythe, a longtime music critic for Gramophone magazine, says Nilsson's pastoral upbringing helped shape her powerful constitution. Her stamina was marvelous, he says, as was her ability to project over an orchestra in full roar.

Nilsson's extraordinary range had sound engineers begging her to step back from the microphone during her highest notes. She shattered wine glasses, windows and supposedly a turquoise gemstone. Her sense of humor was also legendary.

Nilsson, who died at age 87, was buried Wednesday morning. Her family is keeping the cause and exact date of death private.

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Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.