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Birgit Nilsson performed with the orchestra mainly in the Vienna State Opera, where she appeared 232 times between 1954 and 1982. These included 55 appearances as Brünnhilde in the "Ring of the Nibelungen", 32 as Elektra, 31 as Isolde and 24 in the role of Turandot. There were also, nonetheless, philharmonic events of lasting significance. The Decca studio productions between 1959 and 1967 are milestones in the repertoire of recorded opera and represent a significant part of philharmonic history: "Don Giovanni" with Erich Leinsdorf, "Fidelio" with Lorin Maazel, "Tristan und Isolde", "Walküre", "Siegfried", "Götterdämmerung", "Salome" and "Elektra", all under the direction of Sir Georg Solti, as well as excerpts from "Tristan" with Hans Knappertsbusch. Not to be forgotten is a collection of songs by the Scandinavian composers Grieg, Sibelius and Rangstrom, which Nilsson recorded with the Philharmoniker in 1965.
Birgit Nilsson appeared with our orchestra regrettably only three times during her remarkable career - in 1962 with Hans Knappertsbusch at the Theater an der Wien, at the Lucerne International Festival in 1966 with Georg Solti and on the occasion of the World's Fair in Montreal in 1967 with Josef Krips. There is no doubt, however, that she is one of those rare personalities who can not only draw the orchestra into their spell but also leave a lasting impression through their musical expression. The unanimous vote to award honorary membership at a philharmonic ceremony on the 20th of January, 1999 was a gesture of respect for one of the greatest singers of the century as well as a token of thanks for the countless musical high points she has provided. On January 21st, 1999, a long-standing omission was made good when Birgit Nilsson, as guest of honor at our 58th ball, joined us in the Goldener Saal, our musical home, for the first time.