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Hildegard Behrens (b1937)

Behrens’s father was a doctor and she herself graduated with a law degree from the University of Freiburg. As a child however she had learnt to play the violin, and after graduating decided to study voice with Ines Leuwen at the Freiburg Music High School. She made her formal operatic stage début as the Countess/Le nozze di Figaro at the Freiburg City Theatre in 1971, in the same year joining the opera studio of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and in 1972 becoming a full member of that company. While at Düsseldorf, Behrens began to establish the repertoire for which she would later become word famous, singing rôles such as Agathe/Der Freischütz and Marie/Wozzeck. She also joined the Frankfurt Opera (in 1974) and appeared as a guest at other opera houses, for example at Zürich in 1975.

At this time Herbert von Karajan was looking to cast the title rôle in a forthcoming stage production and recording of Richard Strauss’s Salome. Behrens was asked to audition for him in Berlin and was subsequently contracted to sing Salome, with Karajan conducting, at the 1977 Salzburg Festival. Meanwhile during 1976 she had already made her début at Covent Garden as Leonore/Fidelio under Reginald Goodall and at the Metropolitan Opera as Giorgetta/Il tabarro, with James Levine in the pit.




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