«The Danish soprano Inga Nielsen, who has died aged 61 after a stroke, following cancer, was a sparkling presence on the international opera stage for 36 years. Though she initially made her reputation in Mozartian roles, she gravitated towards heavier repertoire - Salome and Chrysothemis in Strauss's Elektra, the unnamed protagonist in Schoenberg's Erwartung, and Elsa in Lohengrin - and impressed audiences and critics with the strength and intensity of tone emitted from a frame that remained slight.
As recently as six years ago, when she was already in her mid-50s and took the role of Salome for Netherlands Opera, it was noted that she could "sound and even look like a teenager". Roles such as that were delivered with an emotional veracity that was almost frightening: the decline from adolescent innocent to decadent necrophiliac has rarely been charted so convincingly.
Inga Nielsen was born in Holbæk, near Copenhagen, the daughter of a Danish father and an Austrian mother. Her father, an educationist, introduced her to music and encouraged what was clearly a very precocious talent. Moving with her parents to Iowa in the US at the age of three, she endeared herself to her first audiences by appearing in Danish folk dress to sing songs from her native country.
By the age of six in 1952 she was singing in four languages on radio talent shows, carting off huge bags of crisps courtesy of the programme sponsors. A recording from that year, and another from her first commercial disc, which was made three years later, were featured on a retrospective double album released last year.
After studying in Vienna, Stuttgart and Budapest, she made her professional debut in 1971 in Gelsenkirchen, with engagements afterwards in Münster, Berne and Frankfurt; she became an ensemble member of the Frankfurt Opera in 1975.
Roles with which she was associated in those years included the Mozartian leads Zerlina, Blonde and Ilia, as well as Norina in Don Pasquale, Nannetta in Falstaff and Aennchen in Der Freischütz.
In 1978 she married the American singer Robert Hale; they later separated.
In the 1980s she continued in similar roles, notably Konstanze in Die Entführung aus dem Serail, performed at the Salzburg Festival and for her Covent Garden debut (both in 1987), and Fiordiligi in Così fan Tutte at Strasbourg (1989). Then in the 1990s her voice and career turned a corner with the assumption of those heavier dramatic roles.
Notable appearances in London included the role of Ursula in Peter Sellars's staging of Hindemith's Mathis der Maler for the Royal Opera (1995), a reading of shocking and unsettling sexual candour. She reappeared at Covent Garden a few years later, in 2002, in Erwartung, earning high praise for her brilliance and accuracy in this formidably taxing atonal role.
Her silvery yet robust tone also brought her acclaim as the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten (Los Angeles, 2004), while her arresting and alarming performance as the redoubtable Lady Billows in Albert Herring at the Komische Oper, Berlin (2005), was acclaimed by Opera magazine: "A petite Brünnhilde in a woman's auxiliary-type uniform, she hurled out those bloodcurdling top notes with awesome and entertaining relish."
Her recordings include a subtle but chilling account of the title role of Salome, conducted by her compatriot Michael Schønwandt on Chandos, and a no less impressive performance in the role of Leonore in a Fidelio for Naxos, which demonstrates both her sensitivity to the nuances of text and music, and her ability to capture the emotional vicissitudes of the role, from despair to hope and elation. For reasons that have never been explained, Nielsen was not a regular on the stage in her native country. Her well-received performance as the Marschallin at the Royal Opera in Copenhagen in 1995 was a triumphant homecoming, though she had previously appeared with Plácido Domingo in two outdoor concerts in the city in 1993.
Last year, she returned to Copenhagen in the role of Elsa in Peter Konwitschny's controversial schoolroom production of Lohengrin, a performance that was sadly compromised by her illness.
The diagnosis of her cancer was made last August, but it remained confidential. Her last public performance was a concert in the Danish provincial town of Næstved, in December, in front of a few hundred listeners - an engagement she carried out although she was in considerable pain.
Denmark had to some extent already made amends for its neglect with the royal award in 1992 as Dame of the Order of Dannebrog. She was also uniquely a kongelig kammersangerinde (literally royal chamber singer) - a prestigious honorific title bestowed by the queen. To the end of her life Nielsen was held in the highest regard and affection by Danes, and by the operatic world at large.
· Inga Nielsen, opera singer, born June 2 1946; died February 10 2008»
Embora pouco conhecida do grande público e algo desprezada pelas majors discográficas, a grande soprano dinamarquesa eternizou uma notável Salome, que recomendo vivamente!