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MUNICH, Germany, Sep 6, 2006 (UPI via COMTEX) -- Internationally acclaimed soprano Astrid Varnay has died in Munich, Germany from a pericardial infection at the age of 88.
The Swedish born star who was raised in New York and started her career at the New York Metropolitan Opera, died Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
Varnay was 23 when she got her first starring role at the Met -- by attrition in 1943. Five other sopranos were unable to perform, so she was the last minute substitute in the role of Sieglinde in Wilhelm Richard Wagner's "Die Walkure," the Times said. Another illness six days later saw her step into the role of Wagner's Brunnhilde -- and a star was born.
Varnay moved to Munich in the 1950s and focused on performing in Europe with occasional returns to the stage that launched her career.
She created a stir in the early 1960s by switching from soprano to mezzo-soprano -- which shifted her out of the spotlight and into smaller, more character driven roles.
"It takes a certain amount of guts to do that," Times music critic Martin Bernheimer said. "Astrid was unique. She was a great, singing actress who could act, using her face, her body and her voice. She gave everything on stage."
Her husband preceded her in death and she left no known survivors.
Copyright 2006 by United Press International