Energetic and superbly gifted, Kirsten Flagstad was a flaxen-haired woman of 39 when she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Sieglinde in 1935. She was the mainstay of the Met in the late years of the depression. She drew sporadic criticism later in her career by her decision to spend World War II in Norway, her Nazi-occupied homeland.
Flagstad became the first chief director of Norway's fledgling opera Feb. 3, 1958. She served until Aug. 1, 1960, after months of illness forced her to step down.
The tall, striking daughter of a musical family, Flagstad found her operatic triumphs shadowed in postwar years by the fact that she chose in 1941 to return from the United States to her German-held homeland to be with her second husband, Henry Johnson, a wealthy lumberman.
Pickets met Flagstad on her return to the United States in 1947 for a concert tour. They paraded outside halls in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, protesting her conduct.
Flagstad said she was "never friendly with the Germans." She declared she had no dealings with the Nazis and did not support them in any way. She said the only singing she had done during the war was in Sweden and Switzerland, both neutrals.
Flagstad made her first Los Angeles appearance in 1936 and her last in 1950.