Swedish mezzo-soprano attacks Birgit Nilsson banknote

Swedish mezzo-soprano attacks Birgit Nilsson banknote


norman lebrecht

January 23, 2015

Malena Ernman has good intentions, but her political opposition to Birgit Nilsson in a Wagner role on a new banknote is plain silly. And the media suggestion that Nilsson was antisemitic is based on a selective misreading of her autobiography.

Read below.


malena ernman1

500 kr banknote controversy

Opera singer Malena Ernman has criticized the Riksbank for choosing a design where Birgit Nilsson has been depicted performing Die Walküre by Richard Wagner. She pointed out that it was very inappropriate to include something by Wagner, whose works were closely associated with Nazi Germany, in a time of increasing problems with antisemitism in Sweden. The Riksbank replied saying that it’s ‘unfortunate that the choice of design is seen as negative’, and stated that it’s not going to be changed.

Dagens Nyheter journalist Björn Wiman went further in his criticism, condemning the Riksbank for selecting Nilsson at all for the 500 kr banknote. He brings up an example from Nilsson’s 1995 autobiography, where she described Mauritz Rosengarten fromDecca using antisemitic jokes about greed.[20]


birgit nilsson swedish bank note1


  • Mike Schachter says:

    Sweden’s problems with anti-Semitism have nothing to do with Wagner, or even the right. Just look at the vile former mayor of Malmo.

  • Christian says:

    Sweden – simply not to be believed these days.

  • David Boxwell says:

    Slipped Disc, 2025:

    Who was Malena Ernman? A singer of no significance until she got the attention she wanted for “Nilsson Trolling” in early 2015. . .

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Neid?…. Envy makes people do and say wicked things.

  • Una says:

    Oh for goodness sake Malena, give us all a break. I have read that biography and it’s well deserved Birgit is on your bank note. Just be proud instead of all this mean mindedness. One of the finest singers the world ever had, not just Sweden and not just Wagner.

  • Ed says:

    Swedish Charlie Hebdo?

  • William Russell says:

    How stupid! Nilsson was a great star (and what other reporter idiot labeled her a mezzo-soprano?) and worthy of such a tribute as is Set Svanholm who also sang Wagner. Hasn’t it gone past the time to link Wagner with the Nazis? After all, he was dead 50 years before they came to power. But “anti-semitism” seems to be the buzz word and sole vocabulary of brain dead European liberals just as “racist” is here among equally brain dead US liberals.

  • Manfred Gerber says:

    Malena Ernman, the ‘ like to be prominent artist of today’ :
    It might be soo easy to attack people when it
    comes to antsemtism. In the sixties, I stayed
    for month inn the same Hotel in NYC (Alden on CPW) with
    Karl Böhm, Josef Krips, Birgit Nilsson and many
    other Met-Artists from Europe. A number of
    Jewish admirers (mostly refugees from Austria)
    were personal guests of the Böhms,Mrs. Nilsson and Leonie Rysanek.
    Birgit adored them for the culture they had brought to America.

  • simon says:

    We believe opera singers are just slightly more intelligent than others, but miss Ernman has lost a wonderful occasion for not saying stupidity . As soon as you sing Wagner, some silly people may tax you of antisemitism . Once more remember that Wagner, dead in 1883, has nothing to do with his recuperation by the nazis and even his writings about jews express a quite different view (somehow “traditional”) . Nilsson has evidently even less to do with all that and i would recommend to miss Ernman, whom we won’t remember, to be careful in her foreighn contracts for not exposing her to bad reactions from the public .