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Margareta Hallin: Swedish opera star who branched out into composition

An accomplished coloratura, Hallin was one of her nation’s most celebrated performers

Camille Mijola
Sunday 15 March 2020 20:42 GMT
Hallin in the opera ‘Tranfjädrarna’ (‘The Crane Feathers’) in 1958
Hallin in the opera ‘Tranfjädrarna’ (‘The Crane Feathers’) in 1958 (Libris)

With more than 1,500 performances and around 60 roles at the Royal Swedish Opera, the versatile soprano Margareta Hallin is regarded as one of the greatest and most accomplished Swedish opera singers of the 20th century.

Hallin, who has died aged 88, is one of the three singers to have a bust in their honour at the Stockholm opera house – but the only one of these to have released two catchy, cult-declared pop songs in the 1960s. But she also found success as an actor and, later in life, composer.

In fact, most Swedes might recognise Hallin for her incursion in pop culture – especially after pop powerhouse Robyn promoted the soprano’s upbeat single “Etta pa Soder” (“One on the South”) as one of her favourites songs of all time. No one was more surprised than Hallin when her 1960s hit made a comeback in 2010s to Swedish radio stations, four decades after it had been released.

Gunhild Margareta Hallin Ekerot was born in the town of Karlskoga in eastern Sweden in 1931. Her early childhood was marked by the death of her father, after which the family moved to Stockholm in order to be closer to more relatives.

It was in the capital that she would take her first steps in the performing arts. Moving on from dance school, she enrolled in music academies and later became a student at the University College of Opera aged 17.

Hallin was 24 and still a university student when she made her operatic debut playing Rosina, playing the rich pupil in love in Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in 1955. Boasting a coloratura voice – a sought-after type of soprano voice comfortable with agile runs, leaps and trills in the highest notes – the following year she joined the Royal Swedish Opera as a full-time employee.

During the 1950s, a time where opera singers featured prominently in cultural life, she performed on TV, radio and record. Some of her most well-known performances include characters such as Zerbinetta in Ariadne on Naxos, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, and Sophie in The Rose Cavalier.

During the 28 years she worked at the Royal Swedish Opera, she was also involved with the music theatre group and record label Phonophon, which released her six-song vinyl record titled Pocketplattan. She also acted in films, including Laderlappen (1958), Boheme (1961) and Tre onskningar (1960).

Her retirement from the Royal Swedish Opera in 1984 marked the beginning of the second chapter of her classical music career, this time as an orchestra composer. Encouraged by German composer Eberhard Eyser, she taught herself how to write music for orchestras. Her first compositions are music set to poems by Swedish authors such as Nils Ferlin, Harry Martinson, Werner Aspenstrom and Alf Henrikson.

The opera star performed her last solo in 2015, aged 84, in a small part in a musical theatre play in Gasklockorna, one of the most popular venues in Sweden.

She was married twice, to violinist and orchestra conductor Inge Bostrom and actor Bengt Ekerot. She is survived by two children.

Margareta Hallin, singer, actor and composer, born 20 February 1931, died 9 February 2020

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