Hildegard Behrens (9 February 1937 – 18 August 2009) was a German soprano with a wide repertoire including Wagner, Weber, Mozart, Richard Strauss, and Alban Berg roles.
Behrens was born in Varel, Germany in 1937 and was graduated from the University of Freiburg as a junior barrister before becoming serious about her talents as a singer, studying at first with Ines Leuwen at the Freiburg Academy Of Music. Her debut was as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro in Freiburg in 1971and the following year she became a member of the Deutsche Oper. On 15 October 1976 she made her American debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York as Giorgetta in Il tabarro .
She began her musical career singing small roles at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf where she stayed for six years during which she graduated into bigger roles. Then in the 1975–76 season, while rehearsing Wozzeck , she was "discovered" by Herbert von Karajan, who was then looking for his new Salome. She was summoned to Berlin to audition for the role. Karajan liked what he heard and invited her to portray the role at the 1977 Salzburg Festival.
Behrens was the recipient of many awards - among them the highest civilian honors given by the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesverdienstkreuz or Order of the Merit Cross of the Federal Republic) and by the state of Bavaria (the Bayerischer Verdienstorden), and the titles of Bayerische Kammersängerin and Österreichische Kammersängerin bestowed by the Bavarian State Opera and the Vienna State Opera respectively. In 1998, she received Denmark's most prestigious Leonie Sonning Music Prize and in 1999 the Vienna State Opera honored her with the Lotte Lehmann Ring, bequeathed to her by the late dramatic soprano Leonie Rysanek.
She sang the role of Brünhilde in the PBS broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera's performance of The Ring of the Nibelung , for the largest viewing audience in history.
Hildegard Behrens died of a sudden aortic aneurysm, aged 72, in hospital in Tokyo, Japan, where she had been attending the Kusatsu International Summer Music Fest.
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