A SWEDISH QUEEN OF SONG
Christina Nilsson, soprano (1843 - 1921) with her golden voice made no less than four major tours across the United States and Canada. She was born on August 20, 1843, as the youngest of seven children at the small farm of Snugge, just south of Växjö in Småland. Snuggehad been in Christina's family's possession for generations, but during her adolescence they were forced to give it up, as one of many bitter steps they had to climb down the social ladder. They came to belong to the large group of really poor Swedes in the 1800s, a period when many people emigrated to the United States.
The family had to move to Lövhult, a farm under the large estate of Huseby in the parish of Skatelöv. Christina early showed a talent for singing as well as playing the violin. She was only eight years old when she started to contribute to her own and her family's support. Rather like a little beggar girl of the country road she made for the dances, the inns, the markets and other places where people gathered. With her song, her violin and her jaunty performance she became famous in the vicinity.
When she, at the age of fourteen, attended the summer fair in Ljungby she got a fantastic opportunity which was going to change her life forever. She was offered a musical education by a local celebrity who had fallen for her obvious musical aptitude, and she accepted it greatfully.
Three years later, in 1860, her studies took her to Paris and there she made her debute as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata, a tremendous success, followed by her next demanding role, the Queen of Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute. Now her name was spread all over the world of music and the fairy-tale of her life was told over and over again. It took several years before she saw her home again. In 1865 she made a short visit and performed, in the church of her childhood, David's psalm about the yearning deer with a melody composed especially for her. This "Christina Nilsson hymn" is still frequently performed by new singers in the little church of Skatelöv.
In Paris new roles awaited her, and soon she extended her work to London as well. Some of her most famous operas were, in addition to the ones mentioned above, Flotow's Marta, Thomas' Hamlet and Gounod's Faust. She also performed at concerts with arias, romances and Swedish folk-songs, as well as in the great oratorios by Händel and Bach.
The rumour about the new singing queen also reached the United States, and the Americans were waiting impatiently to hear her. In September 1870 she began her first American tour, which was going to last for almost two years. She got an absolutely fabulous greeting by the Scandinavians in New York, and around Christmas she contributed to the first large Scandinavianmanifestation in Chicago. She performed in several American cities and received fantastic ovations wherever she went. On July 8, 1871 she visited West Point, as General Upton's special guest, and sang both Swedish and American folk-songs. Every single cadet pulled a button from his uniform and presented her with a unique necklace of shiny buttons as a memory of the event. During her first tour she is said to have appeared in some thirty cities, giving 173 performances and concerts.
In the summer of 1872 Christina returned to London to marry the Parisian financier Auguste Rouzaud, unknown to most people, but the wedding in Westminster Abbey seemed almost royal.