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Kirsten Malfrid Flagstad (12 July 1895 – 7 December 1962) was a Norwegian opera singer and a highly regarded Wagnerian soprano. She ranks among the greatest singers of the 20th century, and many opera critics called hers "the voice of the century." Desmond Shawe-Taylor wrote of her in the New Grove Dictionary of Opera: "No one within living memory surpassed her in sheer beauty and consistency of line and tone."
Flagstad was born in Hamar, Norway, in her grandparents' home. Though she never actually lived in Hamar, she always considered it her home town. She was raised in Oslo within a musical family; her father Michael Flagstad was a conductor and her mother Maja Flagstad a pianist. She received her early musical training in Oslo and made her stage debut at the National Theatre in Oslo as Nuri in Eugen d'Albert's Tiefland in 1913. Her first recordings were made between 1913 and 1915.After further study in Stockholm with Dr. Gillis Bratt, she pursued a career in opera and operetta in Norway. In 1919, she married her first husband Sigurd Hall and a year later gave birth to her only child, a daughter, Else Marie Hall. Later that year she signed up with the newly created Opera Comique in Oslo, under the direction of Alexander Varnay and Benno Singer. Varnay was the father of the famous soprano Astrid Varnay. Her ability to learn roles quickly was noted, as it often took her only a few days to do so. She sang Desdemona opposite Leo Slezak, Minnie, Amelia and other lesser roles at the Opera Comique.