Margareta Hallin was an opera singer, an actor, and a composer.
Margareta Hallin was born in Karlskoga in 1931. She was the daughter of Klas Gustaf Hallin and his wife Gunhild Aina, née Pettersson. Margareta Hallin married twice. Her first marriage was to the violinist and conductor Inge Boström in 1951. They had a daughter named Kristina Broström. Her second marriage was to the actor Bengt Ekerot in 1959 and they had a son named Nils Ekerot.
Initially Margareta Hallin studied at Stockholm’s Kungliga Musikhögskolan where she was taught by Ragnar Hultén. She made her debut singing the part of Rosina in a production of The Barber of Seville at Kungliga Operan (royal opera) in Stockholm in 1955. Her extended high F at the end of the aria became a sensational success for the young coloratura soprano. This meant that she only sang pure coloratura parts thereafter, such as the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute (during her first season), Blondchen and Konstanze in The Abduction from the Seraglio, Gilda in Rigoletto, Eurydice in Orpheus in the Underworld, and the Wood Bird in Siegfried.
Margareta Hallin’s confident technique and rounded singing voice – even at the top range – ensured she was given major roles from the outset of her career. During her early years she also made guest performances abroad, appearing on various stages and singing prime parts such as Konstanze and the Queen of the Night in Glyndebourne, Great Britain, in Munich, Germany, and in Florence, Italy. However, she preferred to sing at home in Sweden, perhaps for fear of getting stuck in the coloratura genre. She wanted to take on more dramatic parts and by changing her singing coach and working with Käthe Sundström she gradually began to expand her vocal range. Margareta Hallin was also exceptionally intuitive when it came to her acting skills: she delved deep into the roles she performed, also looking deep into herself. Her specialism was performing the slightly nasty, young female parts such as Thérèse in the first production of Lars Johan Werle’s Drömmen om Thérèse and Jules Massenet’s Manon.
She came to perform a lot of works by Giuseppe Verdi, singing the part of Violetta in La Traviata (which became a trademark role for her), Leonora in Il Trovatore, Elisabeth in Don Carlos, Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera, and Aida and Alice in Falstaff. She also sang the parts of Musetta and Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème, Tosca (only in Malmö), Sister Angelica and Madame Butterfly. At this time Kungliga Operan did not favour bel canto which meant that Margareta Hallin could not sing works by Gaetano Donizetti or Vincenzo Bellini for which her voice would have been unusually suited. However, she did sing the part of Lucia of Lammermoor in Donizetti’s eponymous opera and a number of Richard Wagner roles, such as Senta in The Flying Dutchman, Elsa in Lohengrin, and several Richard Strauss parts such as Sophie and the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, the title role in Ariadne auf Naxos, and the Empress in Die Frau ohne Schatten.
By 1966 Margareta Hallin had already been appointed singer to the royal Swedish court, perhaps as a result of the many premieres in which she had performed. These premieres included singing the part of the blind poetess in Aniara, the viscountess in Herr von Hancken, both composed by Karl-Birger Blomdahl, the part of Tsù in Sven-Erik Bäck’s Tranfjädrarna as well as appearing in Lars Johan Werle’s Thérèse, to name just a few. Through her crystal clear soprano voice and distinctive musicality Margareta Hallin earned the respect of every composer she worked with. Perhaps these many performances led her to develop her own interest in composing later on.
During the final years of her fulltime employment at Kungliga Operan Margareta Hallin came to perform increasingly dramatic roles, such as Dmitri Shostakovich’s Katerina Ismailova, Verdi’s Lady Macbeth, Prajapati in Per Nørgård’s Siddhartha, and the part of the new prioress in Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Her farewell performance as a permanent member of the Opera was held in 1984 when she sang Luigi Cherubini’s Medea in a completely new production put on just for her.
Immediately after retiring Margareta Hallin began to compose music of her own, eventually producing a fairly respectable set of works including operas, songs, and chamber music. Amongst the operas one should note Fröken Julie and Den starkare, both dating from 1990 and using texts by August Strindberg.
However, she did make several returns to the public stage in conjunction with guest performances both abroad and at home. For example, she played the aged Christina in Hans Gefor’s Christina at Kungliga Operan and La Comandante in Riccardo Zandonai’s I Cavalieri di Ekebù with Värmlandsoperan. Margareta Hallin also carried on performing within the more intimate setting as a singer of Romances and she even made several recordings. She also performed speaking parts on Dramaten’s major stage, at Gasklockan in Gävle, and at Strindberg’s Intima Teatern. She further appeared on screen, playing Jordegumman in Inger Åby’s film adaptation of Rangström’s opera Kronbruden in 1990 and in the part of Den Gamla (the old one) in Per Olov Enquist’s drama Från regnormarnas liv in 1998. Margareta Hallin also performed with the radio theatre, created audio games, and also held several exhibitions displaying her visual art.
Margareta Hallin was one of the linchpins of Swedish operatic and cultural life. She was also one of the most active members of the much discussed 1950s generation at Kungliga Operan. She appeared in 1,505 performances of 72 separate productions. She received numerous awards and prizes for her efforts, including the Litteris et Artibus medal in 1976, the Swedish Academy’s theatre prize in 1986, and the Hugo Alfvén prize in 2004. She was also elected into the Royal Swedish Academy of Music in 1972.
Margareta Hallin died in February 2020. Her funeral was held in Saint Jacob church, directly opposite the Stockholm Opera.