Kirsten Flagstad Posters from
LIFE historical archives

Kirsten Flagstad posters

Flagstad appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1935 after her sensational debut at the Metropolitan Opera earlier that year.

These images come from the historical archives of LIFE Magazine.

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Lintgen of Fanfare:

In the final analysis, Flagstad was one of the legitimate wonders of the musical world.

The music critic Schoenberg writes:

It was a Saturday matinee performance on Feb. 2, 1935. In those Depression days I was the complete Wagnerite and missed no performance of importance.

There was no money around and yet, somehow, it was always possible to raise the 75 cents for standing room in the family circle, or $1.50 for the parquet. (It was also possible to sneak in, but that is another story.)

The debut of a new, unknown Norwegian soprano did not mean much to me. When the great Frida Leider made her debut in 1932 all of us were there. We knew about her. But Kirsten Flagstad? I had more important things to do that Saturday (though what they were I cannot remember). I did not even listen to the broadcast. That was the broadcast in which Geraldine Farrar, one of the intermission commentators, threw away her script and said something to the effect that the most thrilling thing in music had just taken place: a star had been born.

Kirsten Flagstad Posters


Kirsten Flagstad posters. These images come from the historical archives of LIFE Magazine.

Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

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Dorsey, Paul
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Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde
Singer Kirsten Flagstad Appearing in the Opera, Tristan and Isolde

Premium Photographic Print
Dorsey, Paul
Buy at AllPosters.com



The reviews were ecstatic. Lawrence Gilman, who had heard every great Wagnerian soprano from the great days of Materna and Lilli Lehmann, wrote that Flagstad reminded him of ''Olive the Immortal.'' He was referring to Olive Fremstad, the great soprano who flourished before World War I. Naturally all Wagnerians, this one included, got in the standing room line very early in the afternoon for the Feb. 6 ''Tristan und Isolde.'' It was sensational. There were not many Flagstad performances we missed after that.

In retrospect the most amazing thing about that unheralded debut was that it was unheralded. There is a very strong word-of-mouth in music. Seldom does a mature singer - and Flagstad was 40 when she made her Metropolitan debut - arrive without some kind of advance notice.

How could an artist of such splendor, such authority, such vocal endowment, have remained virtually unknown? It is true that Oscar Thompson, the critic for The New York Sun, had written favorably about Flagstad after hearing her in Bayreuth. His was the only account in the American press.

It turned out that Flagstad had been singing for many years before turning to Wagner.

But most of her work had been in Scandinavia, where she did everything including soubrette parts. Her voice matured slowly. She was in no rush and was not particularly ambitious. But when she finally came to New York it was as the complete Wagner soprano.

Not even Leider could produce the big, soaring, arched, golden, effortless sound that belonged to Flagstad alone.

Kirsten Flagstad Posters

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