There is a scene in Die Walkure where Wotan, engraged with Brunnhilde for having rescued Sieglinde, comes to punish her, and the Valkyries rise to defend one of their own from Wotan's wrath.
Halt' ein, o Vater! Halt' ein den Fluch!
Soll die Maid verblühn und verbleichen dem Mann?
Hör unser Fleh'n! Schrecklicher Gott,
wende von ihr die schreiende Schmach!
Wie die Schwester träfe uns selber der Schimpf!
Their efforts are in vain however - Brunnhilde is condemned to becoming mortal, and will sleep in a ring of fire until Siegfried comes to rescue her - and the scene ends with the Valkyries raising their voices in a wail of terrible woe for their lost sister.
It's the scene that first came to mind when I read the news about Birgit Nilsson's death.
Does the shade of Wagner still move among us, I wonder, a god turned wanderer, condemning those who make his divine music accessible to human ears? Or is Wagner really the anti-Wotan? If Wotan could take an immortal, Brunnhilde, and turn her into a maid, can Wagner take a mortal woman (Nilsson) and turn her into an immortal?
To listen to Nilsson sing is to hear the scale of human ambition, of human emotion. If it is not the voice of gods, it is at least the voice of giants.
We do not need to maintain a moment of silence for Nilsson's death. Listen. The world is already quieter.