Hildegard Behrens (1937-2009)

German soprano dies in Japan

Hildegard Behrens has died in Tokyo at the age of 72.


The German soprano had been travelling to Japan to perform at a music festival when she was taken unwell. She was admitted on Sunday to hospital, where she died yesterday.

One of the finest Wagnerian sopranos of her generation, Behrens sung the roles of Brünnhilde and Isolde at many of the world’s great opera houses – these included the Met Opera when it made its first ever televised broadcast of the Ring cycle in the early 1990s.

Although hers was not the most overwhelmingly powerful of voices, Behrens was a formidable actress, bringing a rarely matched intensity to roles such as Strauss’s Salome and Elektra.

Having made her debut as the Countess in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro in Freiburg in 1971, Behrens soon attracted the attention of directors and conductors, not least Herbert von Karajan who in 1975 tipped her as one to watch.


Over her long career, she performed a diverse and demanding range of roles, from Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni to Puccini’s Tosca to Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck.