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Sir Georg Solti and Birgit Nilsson studying the score for Strauss's Salome (Terry's photo)

Sir Georg Solti and Birgit Nilsson studying the score for Strauss’s Salome (Terry’s photo)

Swedish soprano Birgit Nilsson sang the title role in Strauss’s Salome with Sir Georg Solti leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in concerts at Orchestra Hall on December 13 and 15, 1974, and on December 18 in Carnegie Hall. The cast also included Ruth Hesse as Herodias, Ragnar Ulfung as Herod, Norman Bailey as Jochanaan, and George Shirley as Narraboth.

“Superb is hardly the word for Miss Nilsson’s performance of the title role. Hers was a formidable triumph,” wrote Karen Monson in the Chicago Daily News. “She had superb help from Solti, who conducted the mightily convoluted score ingeniously . . . [maintaining] a miraculous balance between voices and instruments.”

December 13 and 15, 1974

December 13 and 15, 1974

“The key to the performance was the combination of the great Salome voice of the century with the great Salome conductor of our day and an orchestra that has been dedicated to Strauss’s cause for all its eighty-four years,” added Robert C. Marsh in the Chicago Sun-Times. Nilsson “gave a performance which, I believe, could not have been duplicated for its strength and depth of insight and vocal richness by any other living singer.”

Following the December 18 concert in Carnegie Hall, Harold C. Schoenberg in The New York Times concluded, “This was a Salome of thrilling impact, well deserving of the cheers that greeted the last note. Mr. Solti remains the conducting idol of New York.”

Nilsson would appear with the Orchestra once more, on a run-out concert to Michigan State University for the gala opening and dedication of the Wharton Center for Performing Arts on September 25, 1982. She performed excerpts from Wagner’s operas, including “Dich, teure Halle” from Tannhäuser and Isolde’s narrative from act 1 and the Liebestod from Tristan and Isolde. Reynald Giovaninetti conducted.

This article also appears here.

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CSO musicians explore the city and Principal Trombone Jay Friedman conducts a master class during the day off in Florence. Musicians visit the Duomo, the cathedral of Florence, which features Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of The Last Judgment; the Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo among other artists; and Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge, built over the Arno River, is known for the shops that are built on top of it. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
CSO musicians travel from Naples to Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region. Considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, the city has been the home of historical figures including Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, Dante, political theorist Machiavelli, astronomer Galileo, the Medici family, navigator Amerigo Vespucci and humanitarian Florence Nightingale. Riccardo Muti leads the CSO’s debut performance at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with a program featuring works by Wagner, Hindemith and Prokofiev. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto
The CSO and Maestro Muti perform a program featuring Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet and Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 (From the New World) at the historic Teatro di San Carlo for a capacity audience. Taking the podium to announce the evening’s encore—Giordano’s Intermezzo from Fedora—Muti noted “although, I’m 100% Italian, I’m 200% Southern Italian.” After the concert, Maestro Muti and his wife hosted the musicians of the Orchestra and distinguished guests for a post-concert dinner featuring traditional Neapolitan cuisine. On Sunday morning before the concert, Maestro Muti and three CSO musicians—Jennifer Gunn, piccolo; Charles Vernon, trombone; and Gene Pokorny, tuba—share an informal performance with young men and women at a juvenile justice center in nearby Nisida. The program was presented by the Negaunee Music Institute with assistance from the administrative staff of the Teatro di San Carlo. #CSOonTour 📸@toddrphoto

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