Hjördis Schymberg (1909-2008) was a Swedish coloratura and lyric soprano. She was one of the leading singers of the Stockholm Royal Opera in a long singing career, and in her later years she became a distinguished voice teacher.
She made her stage debut in 1934, and later that year she sang Mimì to Jussi Björling’s Rodolfo for their 1934 role debuts in La Bohème and went on to sing with him over 100 times, including his last performance in Stockholm in 1960. She soon became one of the leading sopranos of the Stockholm Royal Opera. However, her international career was delayed by World War II. Her first major engagement outside Scandinavia came in 1946 in London’s Royal Albert Hall. The American debut came in 1947 when she sang Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. She also appeared there as Gilda in Rigoletto. A review of her Met debut in New York Times described her:
Comely, petite and graceful, she was an ideal Susanna to the eye. She brought the needed vivacity and sly humor to her interpretation and gave it real human appeal in a natural and unaffected way that won immediate favor with the large audience.
Her Covent Garden debut came in 1951 as Violetta in La Traviata.
Schymberg continued to perform in operas, concerts, art song recitals and recordings until 1968 when she gave her farewell performance at the Royal Swedish Opera. In her later years she taught singing at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm.
In l997 she donated Schymbergsgården, her childhood home on the Alnö Island outside Sundsvall, to the Schymberg Foundation, as a house for the benefit of young singers and musicians. Schymbergsgården is now a venue for summer concerts and master classes.
Hjördis Schymberg died in Stockholm in the early hours of September 8, 2008 at the age of 99.
Hjördis Schymberg’s signature role was Violetta in La Traviata which she sang over 140 times between 1939 and 1968. Over the course of her career she sang over 50 other roles, such as Butterfly, Countess Almaviva, Fiordiligi. Olympia, Manon in both Massenet’s Manon and Puccini’s Manon Lescaut, Marguerite, Oscar, Thaïs, Zerbinetta, and many more.