Christina Nilsson was born Kristina Jonasdotter on a small farm near Växjö, Småland, in southern Sweden. She taught herself to play the violin and flute, and sang at markets, peasants' fairs, and inns with her brother. She was discovered at age 14 by a local celebrity who became her patron and enabled her to have voice training. She studied in Paris, and made her operatic début in 1864 to great success as Violetta in Verdi's opera La Traviata. She went on to sing at major opera houses in London, St. Petersburg, Vienna, and New York. In 1870, she made her first tour of the USA, to which she returned numerous times and performed at the White House. In 1872, she married Auguste Rouzaud, a French banker; after his death, she remarried in 1887 to Angel Ramon Maria Vallejo y Miranda, Count de Casa Miranda, a Spaniard. During the last part of her life she was known as the Countess de Casa Miranda.
She retired in 1888 after 25 years as a star.