A short chronology of Kirsten Flagstads life

 

 

1895

 

Kirsten Malfrid Flagstad is born on July 12th at Strandstuen in Hamar. Her parents are Marie Johnsrud from Eidsvoll and Michel Flagstad from Hamar.

1896

 

Kirsten and her parents move to Niels Juelsgate 6 in Oslo.

1898

 

Her brother Ole is born, May 23rd.

1901

 

Starts having piano lessons with Martin Ursin. Later in life she often learns her rôles to her own accompaniment.

1902

 

The Flagstad family move into a new house in Ivar Aasens vei 11 at Vinderen in Oslo.

1903

 

Her brother Lasse is born, June 5th.

1904

 

Her sister Karen Marie is born, November 24th.

1911

 

Kirsten is confirmed. She has her first singing lessons with singing teacher Ellen Schytte Jacobsen, known as “Auntie Ellen”.

 

 

 

 

 

1913 -1934 Kirsten Flagstad sings in Scandinavia and Bayreuth

1913

 

Singing lessons with the Norwegian singer Albert Westwang.
Opera Debut at the National Theatre in Oslo as Nuri in d’Albert’s Tiefland.
Sings at the chapel in Oslo Prison and makes a deep impression on the inmates.

1914

 

Germaine in Robert Planquette’s Les cloches de Corneville at the National Theatre in Oslo. 
A picture of her in this rôle will later be used on the 100-kroner banknote.
First gramophone recording with the Odeon Record Company.

1915

 

Aagot in Waldemar Thrane’s operetta Fjeldeventyret.
Gets engaged to Gunnar Fredriksen from Melbo in Lofoten.

1916

 

Spends the winter in Melbo. Breaks off the engagement.
Goes to Stockholm to study singing with Dr. Gillis Bratt, an ear-nose-throat specialist and song pedagogue, with the aid of generous grant from Gunnar Fredriksen’s mother.
Secretly engaged to the Swedish painter Harald Klinckowstrøm.
Engagement broken off.

1917

 

Kirsten receives 10 000 kr. from a Bergen businessman to continue her studies in Stockholm.

1918

 

Gets engaged to the Swedish architecture student Svein Jonsson (Markelius).
Concert debut in the University Aula in Oslo together with the baritone Carl Richter from the Stockholm Opera , accompanied at the piano by Piero Coppola.
Receives offer to sing at the Opera Comique in Oslo, but turns it down.
Romance concert in Bergen, accompanied by Sverre Jordan at the piano.
Meets the Norwegian businessman Sigurd Hall.

1919

 

Is engaged to Sigurd Hall, January 19th.
Breaks off her studies in Stockholm.
Operas and operettas at Opera Comique in Oslo. On tour with Opera Comique.
Marries Sigurd Hall, May 14th.

1920

 

Gives birth to daughter Else-Marie.
Retires from the stage in order to be at home with her husband and daughter.
Her mother Maja persuades her to pursue her career, and she returns to the stage on December 26th, her only performance in 1920.

1921-1927

 

Leading rôles in operettas, musicals and revues at the Opera Comique , Mayol and Casino in Oslo, at the same time as she is soloist at major orchestral concerts. Recitals and on tour.
A little curiosity – on one and the same evening she sang in a revue and Beethoven’s 9th symphony!!
Called in to audition for John Forsell, who doesn’t know that she has been a student of Dr. Gillis Bratt in Stockholm. Forsell wants her to make changes in her voice! He doesn’t like Gillis Bratt’s pedagogy.
Gramophone recordings for HMV Scandinavia. 
Her marriage breaks up.

1928-1930

 

Takes her daughter Else-Marie with her when she embarks on operetta rôles in Helsinki and major opera rôles at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg. Enjoys huge success. A new era opens up. The “long arm” of the Metropolitan wants her; they need a Wagner soprano, but she isn’t interested.
Sings Elsa in Wagner’s Lohengrin at the National Theatre in 1929
Meets the timber merchant and widower Henry Johansen.
Gramophone recordings for Columbia.
Marries Henry Johansen and has a temporary pause in her singing career

1931-1934

 

Sings again in major operatic productions at “Storan” in Gothenburg and the National theatre in Oslo. Soloist in orchestral concerts and romance recitals.
Auditions for Winifred Wagner in Bayreuth and is contracted for the 1933 and 1934 seasons. Is requested to audition for the bankruptcy-threatened Metropolitan and given contract for the 1935 season.

 

 

 

 

 

1935-41 Kirsten Flagstad’s international career.

1935

 

Kirsten’s famous debut at The Metropolitan Opera in New York, February 2nd. 
Leaves the stage as a world star, and saves The Met from bankruptcy by performing all of Wagner’s female rôles in the spring of 1935.
Uses holiday at home in Norway to rehearse four romance programmes for an autumn tour of the USA.Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor.

1936

 

Flagstad fever grips Europe and the USA.
Guest performance at Covent Garden in London.
Summer holiday in Strømstad, Sweden.
Guest performance at the Vienna Opera and in Prague.
Travels back to the USA.
Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor and HMV.

 1937

 

The main attraction at the Metropolitan, which she saves from bankruptcy.
Tours North America and has guest performances at Covent Garden. Continues to amaze the American world of music with the intensity of her singing.
The Washington Post writes “Flagstad - in a class of her own in the art of singing”.
Holds concert for 10 000 people at Frogner Stadium in Oslo.
Is made Knight of the First Order by King Haakon VII of Norway.
Paramount pictures make a film recording of Kirsten as Brünhilde in Wagner’s opera Die Walküre, which is featured in the Big Broadcast in 1938.
Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor and HMV.

1938

 

Contracts with The Metropolitan, and tours North and South America Canada, Europe and Australia.
Celebrates her 25-year jubilee as an opera singer by inviting the Metropolitan’s 600 employees to dinner party and gala.
The conductor Arthur Bodansky writes in an article “Wagner and the box office”: “Flagstad has given the public a completely new understanding of Wagner’s operas.”
An embarrassing diplomatic episode in Washington - the Norwegian ambassador to the United States, Morgenstierne, is not allowed into Flagstad’s dressing-room in the interlude between acts because she has a throat infection and a temperature. This incident is to have dire consequences for her in later years. (see 1945)
Else moves to the USA with her mother.

1939

 

Contracts with the Metropolitan, and tours throughout the whole of the USA.
Concerts back home in Norway.
Gramophone recordings for RCA.

1940

 

Norway is occupied by the Germans.
Contracts with the Metropolitan, and tours of the whole of the USA.
Concert where the proceeds were to go to the NorwegianHospital in Brooklyn.
Concerts for 17 000 people in Watergate, WashingtonDC, for 20 000 at the Lewisohn Stadium New York, and for 200 00 in Grant Park, Chicago.
Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor.

1941

 

Concert in Chicago to raise financial aid for occupied Norway.
Farewells the Metropolitan and the USA and returns to Norway after earnest appeals from her husband, who is seriously ill. ( In 1933, he had become a member of the NS, a right-wing Norwegian party which was a passive supporter of Nazism in Germany, but he had now withdrawn his membership at the request of Kirsten and her daughter Else.)

1942

 

Guest appearance at the June Festival in Zurich, Switzerland. 
Concert in Stockholm, where the 24-year-old Swedish singer Birgit Nilsson is in the audience.

1943

 

Guest appearance at the June Festival in Zurich, Switzerland. 
Throughout the war Kirsten Flagstad adamantly refused to perform in Germany, in German-occupied countries and for Germans in Norway.
Holiday stay at Irstad Farm just outsid Hamar. Asked to sing at a gathering of resistance fighters, where they are discussing and planning new flight routes to Sweden. She sings national songs, ending the recital with “God bless our cherished fatherland.”

1945

 

Peace in Norway. Her husband is arrested and put in jail. Kirsten’s passport is confiscated.
An article by Oscar Thompson in the New York Sun causes a rumpus about Kirsten. The Norwegian ambassador to the US, Morgenstierne, attacks Flagstad in an official declaration, and urges the Department of Foreign Affairs to prevent Flagstad’s return to the USA.

1946

 

Henry Johansen dies before his case can be tried.
The Replacement Directorate ( a sort of post-war recompensation tribunal) signals its intention to take Kirsten Flagstad to court. She attends Torridal county court on June 18th-19th to explain her income and financial situation, but the Directorate argues that the finances should be seen as being together with the assets of her deceased husband. She lives in a state of uncertainty and is unable to accept offers to perform abroad because her passport has been confiscated.
Barrister Annæus Schjødt intervenes in the conflict, and the Directorate agrees to her being issued with a new passport.
Her grandson Sigurd is born, September 22nd.
New passport issued, November 28th. Travels to Stockholm.

 

 

 

 

 

1947-53 Kirsten Flagstad resumes her international career.

1947

 

On tour in Europe, giving concerts in Nice in France, the Royal Albert Hall in London, and La Scala Milan. Receives an overwhelming welcome, multiple curtain calls and brilliant reviews. 
Returns to tour the USA, where she is met with jeering, demonstrations and stink bombs by Americans and Norwegian- Americans, which the Norwegian press maliciously exploit. Eventually, however, the American public show their delight at having her and her incomparable voice back in the States. 
Back in Norway, Bokken Lasson and a number of Norwegian artists spring to her defence. “We appeal to our fellow Norwegians to refrain from these shameful attempts to undermine Kirsten Flagstad’s name and reputation.”

1948

 

Covent Garden in London, La Scala Milan, Central Hall, Westminster in London where the proceeds go to the “Jewish Relief Appeal”. June Festival in Zürich. South and Central America. Christmas concert in Carnegie Hall in New York.
Summer visit from her daughter and her family at Amalienborg in Kristiansand, Norway.
Gramophone recordings for His Master’s Voice.

1947

 

Concerts throughout Europe: England, France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. 
The composer Richard Strauss asks Kirsten to perform “Vier letzte Lieder”.
A bitter quarrel in San Fransisco about Flagstad’s scheduled return to War Memorial House opera. The management of the opera win the day, and her performance is rapturously acclaimed.
Kirsten is made an honorary member of the Norwegian Artist Tone Society.
Hans Heiberg attacks Kirsten Flagstad in the Norwegian daily newspaper Verdens Gang, leading to a long and heated debate in the newspaper.
Gramophone recordings for His Master’s Voice.
Verdict delivered in the Replacement case, which the press had blown up as “Norway’s biggest case of profiteering”, but which turned out to be nothing of the sort! 
Concert in Carnegie Hall.

1950

 

Concerts throughout Europe and the USA.
Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor and His Master’s Voice.
First performance of Richard Strauss’ “Vier letzte Lieder” in the Royal Albert Hall, London.
Festival appearances in Salzburg with Wilhelm Furtwängler conducting.

1951

 

Back to the Metropolitan after an absence of 10 years as Isolde in Tristan und Isolde.
Concerts in England, France and Switzerland.
Concert in Calmeyergatens Mission House – Kirsten Flagstad’s first official performance for the Norwegian public since before the war.
Purcell’s opera Dido and Aenaes at the Mermaid Theatre in London.
Charity concerts in Norway.
Gramophone recordings for His Master’s Voice.

1952

 

Farewell concerts in America.
Farewells the Metropolitan in Gluck’s opera Alceste.
Farewell concerts in Europe.
Sibelius Festival in Helsinki.
Gramophone recordings for RCA Victor and His Master’s Voice.
Makes plans for her family to move to Norway. Intends to attach her son-in-law to the firm of Henry Johansen Ltd. Else, Arthus and Sigurd make the move, but the plan doesn’t work. The Dusenberry family return to the US.

1953

 

Concerts in Europe, first and foremost in Norway.
Her final opera performance is in Purcell’s Dido and Aenaes in Det Nye Teater (the New Theatre) in Oslo.
Is admitted to hospital in Oslo several times to receive treatment for psoriasis.
Sings at the 0pening of the first Bergen International Festival.
Trouble in connection with the publication of “The Flagstad Manuscript” - her autobiography as told to Louis Biancolli. It includes an attack on the Norwegian ambassador in Washington and the lawyer who had been used by the Replacement Directorate after the war.
Cancels a tour of South Africa.
Cancels two concerts in Oslo.
Farewell concert and 40th anniversary at the National Theatre in Oslo.

1954

 

Hospitalised again.
Recordings for the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK).
At the request of Princess Ingeborg of Sweden she sings at a concert in Sweden, the proceeds going to the “Save the Children” Fund.
Wishes to change recording companies from His Master’s Voice to Decca on the advice of Lord Bernard Miles.
New recordings for NRK - Beethoven, Grieg, Sibelius, and American and British songs.

1955

 

Charity concert in Carnegie Hall.
Is made an honorary member of “Symphony of the Air”.
More hospital stays in Oslo.
Celebrates her 60th birthday at home in Kristiansand.
Prepares Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung.

1956

 

Götterdämmerung is broadcast on NRK, with Kirsten as Brünnhilde.
Leaves His Master’s Voice and signs contract with Decca on condition that Decca release NRK’s recording of Götterdämmerung, which is broadcast in Europe, the US, and Canada. Decca issue the record. Flagstad and Set Svanholm get good reviews, unlike the other musicians.
Several gramophone recordings for Decca.
Records 45-50 psalms and hymns in RisChurch with Sigvart Fotland at the organ, intended to be used in NRK’s morning prayer service.
Church concerts throughout Norway. Proceeds donated to charity.

1957

 

Concert in the Royal Albert Hall in London on the 50th anniversary of the death of Edvard Grieg.
Concert in Molde marking the Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson jubilee. (100 years since his debut, Synnøve Solbakken).
On tour for “Music Friends” in Norway.
Gramophone recordings for Decca, 1st act of Richard Wagner’s opera Die Walküre, Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrende Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder.
Charity concerts in many towns throughout Norway.
More hospital stays in Oslo.

1958

 

Appointed as first director of the recently-established Norwegian Opera in Oslo.
Gramophone recordings for Decca, songs of Jean Sibelius with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Øivin Fjelstad.
Her mother, Maja, dies.
Together with her family in the USA.
Hospitalised again for her troublesome psoriasis and arthritis problems.
Recordings in the NRK studios.
Gramophone recordings for Decca in Vienna, as Fricka in Wagner’s Reingold.
Kirsten Flagstad’s last official concert is in HamarDiocesanChurch, October 21st.
The Norwegian Opera’s first opera performance, a ballet, is held in the Festivity Theatre in Hamar, November 2nd.

 1959

 

The Norwegian Opera’s first staging of d’Albert’s Tiefland in Oslo, February 16th.
Yet another hospital stay, this time two months.

1960

 

Plagued more and more by psoriasis and arthritis. Constantly back at the Rikshospital, which she called her “home from home”.
Kirsten is forced to retire from her post as director of the Opera for health reasons. She is diagnosed with cancer of the bone.
The Royal Orders Committee turn down a request to have her made Commander of the Order of St Olav.
Decca are nervously hoping for her come-back.

1961

 

Torsten Gunnarson interviews her on NRK Radio, October 4th.

1962

 

A new request to make her Commander of the Order of St Olav. Request again turned down September 3rd. She is informed of this by telephone. 

Kirsten dies December 7th, and by her own request is buried in an unmarked grave in Vestre Gravlund cemetery in Oslo.


 


 

 After a painstaking count-up, Kirsten Flagstad was able to tell her radio interviewer, Torstein Gunnarson, that she had given us 600 romance concerts, 250 orchestral concerts, that she had sung Isolde 183 times and Brünnhilde 77 times. She couldn’t number and place all of her opera performances..


According to Howard Sanner, who has registered a Kirsten Flagstad disqueography, there are about a thousand known recordings made by recording companies, and many private and pirate recordings. Even today, nearly 50 years after her death, new and exciting discoveries are still being made.