The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Christine Nilsson

Christine Nilsson

A carte-de-visite portrait of Christine Nilsson (1843-1921), one of the greatest opera stars of all time, a Swedish singer who had a high soprano voice with a range of three octaves.

Born Kristina Jonasdotter in 1843 in a small village in southern Sweden, she was the youngest of seven children, all of whom had musical talents. Kristina used her musical gifts to sing in neighbouring inns and visiting fairs, often accompanying herself on the violin. Discovered at one of these rural fairs by a judge, he took her to Madame Adelaide Valerius-Leuhusen in Gothenburg, who took her musical education in hand. At this point, she started calling herself Christina Nilsson, after her father, Jonas Nilsson (Sweden was a patronymic society at this time). The following year, now aged seventeen, she was sent to study music in Paris. When she made her début four years later, in October 1864 at the Théâtre Lyrique as Violetta in La Traviata, her name was changed yet again, this time to the more international Christine Nilsson.

She performed around the world, particularly in Great Britain, the USA and Russia, where she was very popular, triumphing in such roles as Ophelia in Hamlet, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Margarita in Faust. Other roles in which she excelled included Cherubino in The Marriage of Figaro and The Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute.

Christine married twice. Her first husband was a banker, August Rouzaud, who didn't enjoy watching his wife on stage in Paris. She could sing wherever she wanted, but not in Paris. During this first marriage Christine appeared a lot in London and on tours. August Rouzaud eventually became mentally ill and was put in an asylum, where he used to climb the trees in the garden believing that he was a rising stock market. Following his death, Christine married the Spanish Count di Casa Miranda.

She retired from singing in 1888 when she was 45 years old, explaining that she didn't want to continue until people asked her to stop. She said that no one should have to applaud Christine Nilsson out of pity. She never recorded anything, because, when the technology became available, she no longer thought her voice was up to it. Christine died in 1921 in Sweden. The cottage in which she lived is now a museum.

Photographed by the London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company.


Code: 125415
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