Opera singer Birgit Nilsson, Jan. 11 Opera singer Birgit Nilsson, whose prodigious voice, unrivaled stamina and thrilling high notes made her the greatest Wagnerian soprano of the post-World War II era, has died. She was 87. A funeral was held Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2006, at a church in her native Vastra Karup in southern Sweden. It was not known when Nilsson died or the cause of death, but she was said to have had heart trouble in recent years. She sang a wide variety of dramatic soprano roles, but her reputation was based especially on her mastery of a handful of the most punishing in the operatic repertory. Chief among these was in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, which she sang for her sensational debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1959. She retired in 1983. Here, Nilsson is dressed as Bruennhilde in Wagner's Walkuere at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967. She's wearing a miner's hat at the rehearsal because she was unhappy with the gloomy lighting on which Herbert von Karajan insisted for his Met production of the "Ring " cycle.
AP/ Metropolitan Opera, Louis Melancon, file