On August 28, 1938, legendary Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad (1895-1962) gave a concert at the Civic Auditorium in San Francisco with members of the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Edwin McArthur.
The pre-eminent dramatic soprano of her generation, Flagstad was a frequent visitor to San Francisco. She made her local debut in the San Francisco Opera’s first presentation of Wagner’s Ring cycle in 1935 and, over the next fifteen years, gave more than 30 performances in the city.
During World War II, Flagstad remained at home with her husband in Nazi-occupied Norway. After the war, her husband was arrested as a collaborator, causing many to protest Flagstad’s subsequent engagements. Although her last opera performance was in London in 1953, she continued to make recordings and, from 1958-1960, served as director of the Royal Opera in Oslo.
Photo of Kirsten Flagstad (Brunnhilde), Lauritz Melchior (Siegmund) and Fritz Reiner (conductor) in San Francisco Opera’s Die Walkure taken November 13, 1936 by Strohmeyer. From the collection of the Museum of Performance + Design.