Jussi of the Month May 2022
Nils Grevillus, Jussi’s favourite Swedish conductor
”With Nils Grevillius and his orchestra.” The phrase can be used for most of Jussi Björling’s studio recordings made in Stockholm. Sometimes that orchestra is the Stockholm Philharmonic, that of the Swedish Radio (in early days called Radiotjänst – “the Radio Service” public broadcaster which was the only one allowed in Jussi’s time) or Kungliga Hovkapellet: the orchestra of the Royal Opera, Stockholm. Most recordings with a “named” orchestra derive from concerts, broadcasts, or staged opera performances, while “his orchestra” typically met to record for Jussi’s many 78 rpm discs. From Jussi’s very first published record for His Master’s Voice of 18 December 1929 to the final recorded concert from Gothenburg 5 August 1960 Grevillius almost had a monopoly, at least for arias and other more serious songs thar required an orchestra. So who was he, and how did it come about? And who were the orchestras he recorded with?
Jussi of the Month April 2022
Some important conductors at the Royal Swedish Opera during Jussi’s time there
An unusually long career at the Royal Opera had Finnish-Swedish conductor, composer and pianist Armas Järnefelt (1869 – 1958). He was born in Viborg on the Karelian isthmus in the then Grand Duchy of Finland as one of nine siblings, several of whom became prominent cultural personalities: art critic and translator Kasper, author Arvid, painter Eero and Aino, who married Jean Sibelius. After studies in Helsinki – where one of his teachers was Jules Massenet – Berlin, Breslau, Magdeburg and Düsseldorf he became conductor of the symphony orchestra in his hometown Viborg between 1898 and 1903, the year he first performed in Stockholm, then as accompanist for his singing wife Maikki.
Jussi of the Month March 2022
March 1937: Vienna
Jussi Björling spent most of February and March 1937 in Vienna, Austria. During this period he sang nine of his most prominent roles at its State Opera. He would never again have such a long and varied guest period at any opera house.
Vienna State Opera in the 1930s
Berit Lindholm appointed as honorary member
The Swedish Jussi Björling Society is calling ”hovsångerskan” (the Royal Swedish Court Singer) Berit Lindholm as honorary member.
After her debut as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro in 1963, at the Royal Opera House in Stockholm, she has been a guest at several scenes in Europe, Russia and the United States.
Berit Lindholm as Brünhilde in Bayreuth 1969
Beyond this classic studio recording, is Berit Lindholm represented in a large number of live recordings.
Jussi of the Month February 2022
Jussi’s Male Colleagues at the Royal Stockholm Opera in the 1930s
During his years at the Royal Theatre, Jussi Björling cooperated with a good deal of male singers. Some of the most prominent and most frequent will be presented in this article. Besides that, it happened that visiting star singers popped in, and some of them will also be mentioned.
The Jussi Björling Museum being emptied
As was previously announced, the Jussi Björling Museum in Borlänge was closed at the turn of the year 2020/21, but the collections have remained and been available to visitors making arrangements with Museum curator Jan-Olof Damberg.
Borlänge municipality has debated the fate of the Museum for years, and a decision was made to move it to, or adjacent to, the municipal library. However, it was not until 10 January 2022 that the Museum curator was informed that the building must be emptied by the end of February to serve as an office for the upcoming redevelopment of the nearby Liljan building (for the needs of Dalarna University College). Since no new museum space is available now, everything must be stored for the time being.
Jussi of the Month January 2022
Jussi’s Early Prima Donnas II
Arguably the longest standing of Jussi Björling’s prima donnas was Hjördis Schymberg (1909 – 2008). From the premiere of the new production of Puccini’s La bohème on 13 October 1934 – which also was her proper debut – to Jussi’s very last performance at the Royal Stockholm, Il trovatore on 6 March 1960, they set foot upon the boards of the opera house at Gustaf Adolf’s Square together, not least at Jussi’s guest appearances since he left his permanent employment in 1939.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Jussi of the Month December 2021
Don Carlo with a new boss (November–December 1950) – part 2
Last month’s Jussi of the Month described how the Metropolitan Opera in New York celebrated its customary First Night or Gala Opening in November 1950 – an extra glamorous occasion as there was a new boss, Rudolf Bing, succeeding Edward Johnson after his fifteen-year tenure.
Auditorium in the old Met
Jussi conference postponed again
Message from Jussi Björling Society - USA:
"This is to let you know, with great regret, that the JBS-USA board has unanimously voted to postpone the March 24 - 28, 2022 Conference.
We continue to encounter serious problems in ensuring any kind of enjoyable and successful Conference given the current and evolving circumstances.
Many in our membership have indicated they might not attend, due to expressed concerns about group and travel exposure, the possible spread of the new Delta variant, and the potential for airline staff shortages and cancelled flights."
Jussi of the Month November 2021
Don Carlo with a new boss (November–December 1950) – part 1
The season opening at the Metropolitan Opera has always been important. Like La Scala in Milan, it was normally delayed until late autumn, marking the restart of life in higher echelons of society. Nowadays both houses start performing in September, but in Jussi Björling’s days it was November. Then all fine families should fill their boxes in the Golden Horseshoe, ideal for viewing each others and not just the performance. Often the latter was a new opera production, but sometimes a revival with some particularly prominent singers would have to do. In both cases it became a kind of manifesto from the management of the theatre: look here, we are worthy of your support through attending performances and donating your money!
Jussi Björling Society – USA at Symphony Center
Chicago Conference Re-scheduled!
Jussi conference postponed again, see above
JBS-USA is happy to announce that plans for the much-anticipated Chicago Conference, postponed from spring of 2021, are now being finalized for the weekend of March 24 to 28, 2022. We are now accepting advance registrations online.
As before, the Conference will include nine distinguished speakers, group tickets to performances by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera of Chicago, and group discounted hotel rooms.
The Jussi Björling Society in USA will take a final decision in December about carry on or postpone the Conference due to the Conora situation.
Jussi of the Month October 2021
Jussi’s Early Prima Donnas
During the close to ten years Jussi Björling was engaged at the Stockholm Opera, he sang important roles opposite a great number of female singers. Some of them are more or less forgotten today, after eighty to ninety years, while others are remembered, at least by some trainspotters with an interest in the good old days. The first year or two the still teenaged Jussi was required to do some minor roles.
Jussi of the Month September 2021
Fully-fledged soloist of the Royal Opera September 1931
Early September ninety years ago the Stockholm Royal Opera presented its programme for the new season: a small book called The General Plan for the Royal Theatre’s 1931–1932 Season. This was Jussi Björling’s first year as a full-fledged member of its ensemble of vocal soloists, and therefore the first time the twenty-year-old’s name was listed among those of his new colleagues. This article is about the institution he now became part of, and where he would belong throughout the 1930s.
Joan Baez Paints Portrait of Jussi
Portrait of Jussi by Joan Baez
It started with my buying a ticket for her concert at Cirkus in November 2009. I had heard from JBS USA that she liked Jussi and contacted her homepage and her assistant to get a chance to come backstage and talk to her after the concert. With that they had my phone number. She was to sing on a Tuesday. On Sunday her assistant called me and asked if I could take him and Joan to Jussi’s museum and grave. I thought this would happen on Wednesday, after she had been singing.
Jussi of the Month May 2021
Jussi’s First Tour Abroad, May 1931, and his Swedish Opera Repertoire
After his debut at the Royal Opera on 21 July 1930, Jussi had next spring already eight roles in his backpack. Several of them were rather modest: the Lamplighter in Manon Lescaut, which was his first role, the Poet in Edvin Ziedner’s Bellman and A Songster in Charpentier’s Louise. The debut proper – in those days one had to make three debuts in fairly great roles before one was full-fledged opera singer at the Royal Opera, Nils-Göran Olve has described this in earlier issues of “Jussi of the Month”
Jussi of the Month April 2021
Two recent “Jussi of the Month” discussed his many tours around the US, often in the company of pianist Frederick Schauwecker and sometimes also his wife Anna-Lisa. He exhibited his art of singing in concert programmes consisting of 15–20 songs and arias. In my article published in February 2021 I described how their contents may seem disparate but were very consciously shaped. Often they started out from some of the few more classical numbers in Jussi Björling’s repertoire – Handel, Mozart or Schubert, then through Richard Strauss or Rachmaninov reaching Nordic composers. Towards the end there were always some more popular American or Italian numbers. At suitable intervals the singer would introduce a few isolated opera arias, and at the very end there might also be some audience-pleasing aria or song by such as Paolo Tosti.
Close-down of Jussi Björling Museum Averted
At a meeting on 9 February the Committee of Culture and Recreation in Borlänge decided against a former decision to close down the Jussi Björling Museum. The reason was the strong support for the appeal signed by The Jussi Björling Society and others. The new decision is that the collections will be moved to suitable venues adjacent to the local library. The planning work has already begun and during this spring more detailed plans will be developed. During this period the museum will still be open to visitors, probably also during the summer months, but it is still uncertain how the Corona pandemic will affect the process. During the autumn the moving of the collections will be carried through and the aim is to reopen the museum in the beginning of 2022.
Announcement About a Jussi Documentary
On account of the 110th anniversary of the birth of Jussi Björling in February 2021, Swedish Television reprises Johan von Sydow’s documentary from 2011, SAGAN OM JUSSI (THE JUSSI BJÖRLING SAGA).
Johan von Sydow is director, journalist and documentary film producer from Östersund. The film about Jussi was awarded the prize for Best Documentary at the TV-gala Kristallen in 2011.
The programme will be available at SVT Play until 20 August 2021, and the programme can be viewed worldwide. Consequently, it will be available for expatriate Swedes as well as members of the British and American Societies.
Follow the link below:
Jussi of the Month March 2021
The USA tour of the Winter of 1949 Continues
and is situated in the beautiful Mohawk Valley. It is a relatively small town, today circa 60 000 inhabitants.
Follow-up of the appeal for the Jussi Björling Museum as of 7 February
Jussi of the Month February 2021
Touring the US in February 1949
Jussi Björling celebrated his birthday on February 2, although later research has shown the correct date to be February 5. Since he had established himself as an international artist he was usually in the US that date. With exception for the war years 1942–45 and 1955 he always spent February there, except for his last four years. (In 1952 he cancelled his customary February tour at short notice, returning to Sweden on February 7 but returning in March.)
Follow-up of the appeal for the Jussi Björling Museum as of 12 January
Emails and phone calls have continued to stream in from people who wish to support our efforts to preserve the Jussi Björling Museum. They have arrived from all of Sweden but also from our neighbouring countries Denmark and Norway, from Germany and Great Britain, from Spain and USA and even from Australia and China. Jussi Björling is well-known and loved all over the world. Reactions have also been strong, sometimes upset and desperate. “I am ashamed of being an inhabitant of Borlänge, when they treat the son of our town like this”, wrote a fairly young man. “My tears are streaming all the time, I get so damned sad”, wrote another, and a third wrote with deep seriousness:
Jussi of the Month January 2021
Touring the States in January 1940
The new decade opened with a flying start for Jussi: Three performances in five days with Metropolitan Opera, the middle of which was a guest appearance in Philadelphia. After that followed a long concert tour together with pianist Harry Ebert. It had begun as early as the end of November, but then Harry was free a couple of weeks while Jussi fulfilled his obligations at the Met. A performance of Faust between Christmas and New Year preceded the triple we are going to describe next and the starting shot for the year 1940 went off on New Year’s Day, not many hours after the pops of the champagne corks and the fireworks at midnight had died away, since the premiere performance was a matinée. One must feel sorry for the members of the Metropolitan Orchestra, who had to be in the fire again only some hour later for the evening performance: five hours of Tristan und Isolde!
Follow-up of the appeal for the Jussi Björling Museum
Click here for a list of those who up to December 21, 2020 supports the appeal.
Appeal for the Jussi Björling Museum
“With deep sorrow and dismay we have been informed that the Municipality of Borlänge has decided to close down the Jussi Björling Museum at the end of the year. Considering Jussi Björling’s unique position in Swedish and international music life combined with him being deeply-rooted locally we find the decision thoroughly deplorable.
The Jussi Björling Museum closes
It has long been known that the City of Borlänge wanted to move the Jussi Björling Museum out of its present building, where it was opened in 1994, but plans for the future have been unclear. In April 2020, the three Jussi Björling societies, Lars and Ann-Charlotte Björling and several persons in Sweden and abroad who were active in preserving his memory through books and CDs sent a letter to the Department of Cultural and Recreational Activities, stressing the importance of the museum and asking for clarification of the city's plans.
The questions were not answered until seven months later, in a letter from the head of the department dated 23 November, and on 24 November the corresponding political board took a formal decision confirming the information. It has thus been decided that after 1 January 2021, there will not be a separate Jussi Björling museum, and the present building will be emptied. The museum will be replaced by an exhibition of selected parts of the collections, either in the municipal library or in an adjacent building. The new exhibition will not contain any of the Björling family's depositions, since Jussi's children Lars and Ann-Charlotte have reacted to the decision by demanding that all the family's depositions are returned to them as soon as possible.
Jussi of the Month December 2020
December 1935: One more night with Chaliapin
Jussi Björling rarely sang Russian repertoire. His last twenty years it consisted of just two songs by Rachmaninov (in English) and one aria each from Borodin’s Prince Igor and Tchaikovsky’s Eugen Onegin (both in Swedish). Prince Igor was a popular opera in 1930s Stockholm, and with 36 performances 1933–37 Vladimir – Jussi’s role in it – features high in a list of roles he sang numerous times. Lensky in Eugen Onegin he only sang eight times on stage. The first was in January 1933 and the final one in the month we now will survey: December 1935.
Notes on the new issue of Roméo et Juliette
You should own Jussi’s Swedish-language Romeo. Preferably in this new edition, and you should buy it soon. Let me explain why.
Jussi was at his most audibly engaged and alive when interpreting his roles in his native Swedish, with colleagues that he had grown up with as an artist at the Stockholm Opera during the 1930s. The main proof is two complete performances from the season 1939/40: La traviata and Roméo et Juliette. He recorded neither of them commercially, but there are good live recordings of both. Of these his Romeo is the most important: one of his best parts, and one where no one else comes close to his success.
Jussi of the Month November 2020
Jussi as Radamès in Aïda 1935
November opened with two performances as Tomas in Laparra’s L'Illustre Frégona. He had done the role for the first time as early as January 1932, and now it had been dusted off after an interval of a couple of years. He was to sing it another four times during November.
Jussi of the Month October 2020
October 1938: L’africaine, and more
On the surface, Jussi Björling’s month of October 1938 resembled most other months since he became a member of the Royal Stockholm Opera’s ensemble in 1930: a new role, a number of performances at its home base at Gustav Adolf’s square, some elsewhere, and a gramophone session. Business as usual for a full-time employee, with walking-distance home, and with long-time colleagues. After returning from his debut at the Metropolitan in New York on 24 November there would be a similar period in February–April. But by then he would have become recognized as an international celebrity, and he would make his final appearances as an employee of the Stockholm Opera.
Tour of the Jussi Björling Museum
"When the museum goes towards unknown fates, it's nice to have this video left." Ulla Moulvad visited the museum in 2017 and filmed it and posted it on Youtube:
More about the museum's future can be read by scrolling down.
60 years ago since Jussi Björling died
Skansen, Stockholm, 20 August was the last concert
If you could sum up his work in a few words, it could be - Jussi was the tenor of the tenors.
Jussi of the Month September 2020
During the war years Jussi was mainly confined to his home country, but that didn’t imply that he was inactive. On the contrary he was in great demand, both as concert singer and as guest at the Stockholm Opera. Certain period he was also field artist, singing for the soldiers. Besides that there were still opportunities to appear in Europe, although in limited extent. 1942 was such a year, which will be elucidated in this article.
Spring and summer of 1942, he was almost overburdened with engagements all around Sweden, from 20 May at Furuvik to the finale at Tivoli at Gröna Lund on 27 August. Before the latter the press could report: “135 000 people have heard Jussi Björling so far during this year’s summer tour – how much this figure will increase tonight is uncertain, but that there will be several thousand can be taken for granted, since Jussi tonight sings once again at Tivoli, and one can count on the same success as last time, when the whole space was filled with people and outright southern hat-throwing scenes took place after the concert. Tonight is moreover the last opportunity for a long time to hear our great singer. After the concert Jussi Björling will take a good rest in the archipelago and in September he goes to Copenhagen and after a couple of guest appearances at the Opera in Stockholm he goes to Budapest and Vienna.”
The Future of the JB Museum Ventilated Again
A few years ago Borlänge Kommun brought up the issue of the future of the museum, its premises and contents. Those concerned, including the family and the Jussi Björling Societies, sent this spring an extensive document with viewpoints and questions. The authorities replied vaguely after some months. Recently Borlänge Tidning, the local daily, has taken an active interest in the matter in two articles, the gist of which is described below.
Jussi of the Month May 2020
Operetta discs May 1938
To us the most important thing about Jussi Björling’s May 1938 is that on the final two days of that month he recorded some of his most beloved records, in particular an aria from Der Bettelstudent (The Beggar Student) which he sang in Swedish as ”Nu är jag pank och fågelfri” – “Now I am broke and an outlaw”. That text may astonish some who are not familiar with Millöcker’s operetta, as the song is extremely happy – but we’ll come back to that. The song is a frequent request when we play Jussi records at meetings of the Swedish Jussi Björling Society. Its abundant enthusiasm, his use of the text, a phenomenal inserted extra-high note at the end: no wonder that it long was a favourite on radio and was included in many Jussi compilations on record. Now it is easily found on Youtube and streaming services.
The current edition from 1938
Kerstin Meyer in memoriam
Only 66 days after the passing of Margareta Hallin, I have the painful duty to announce that still another Honorary Member has died.
The opera- and concert singer, Kerstin Meyer, also Royal Court Singer and professor, has left our mortal life on the 14th of April at the age of 92.
A cheerful, curious, sympathetic and lovable representative of the Singers Guild has left us. By that passing, we lose one of the last important Swedish singers who sang together with Jussi Björling, a part of eternity.
Jussi of the Month is set for April 2020
Due to the grueling Covid-19, the article on Jussi of the Month April 2020 may be postponed until further notice.
Jussi of the month March 2020
March 1935: a normal month’s work
Portrait of Jussi by Verner Molin 1935
Like most months recently March included one new role for Jussi Björling which must have required rehearsals. He recorded a disc with two arias, which show remarkable developments since
his latest exactly one year earlier
New honorary member of The Jussi Björling Society 2020
Sue and Harald
where she spends some time of the year and lives and works with her Swedish husband, Harald Henrysson. Both has a strong connection in Jussi Björling´s life and achievement. And Sue has also meant a lot to our sister society, The Jussi Björling Society – USA, where she has been both chairman and secretary. She is still active in the American society and deals with contacts and distribution of records and books. Sue Flaster is the twenty-sixth in the row of the society´s honorary members. Welcome!
Margareta Hallin dead
The coloratura soprano Margareta Hallin, born in 1931 and one of the most accomplished Swedish singers of her time, died today 9 February. In her later years, she also took up career as a - self-taught - composer. After several years at the Royal Swedish Opera, she sang at Glyndebourne, Florence, Vienna, Hamburg, Moscow, Covent Garden and Copenhagen, but not in the US.
She never appeared in opera with Jussi, but she took part with him and other Royal Opera soloists in the Gröna Lund concert 9 June 1960, when the picture was taken. Jussi stands between her and Hjördis Schymberg. Recordings of duets with Jussi were planned in 1960 but prevented by his death. Hallin received Jussi Björlingstipendiet (The Jussi Björling Award) in 1970.
Jussi of the Month February 2020
Laborious Opening of the Leap Year 1932 for Jussi
Click here to enlarge the image
Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Narraboth in Salome had been added. Undeniably a rather assignment for a youngster who not yet reached lawful age. At that you didn’t reach that age until you were 21, and Jussi had still a good month to get there when the New Year’s Bells tolled.
Jussi of the Month January 2020
Debut number three January 1931
Two earlier “Jussi of the Month” discussed the system of three debuts as an entry requirement to be employed by opera houses in the past. For Jussi this had importance in the autumn of 1930 when he simultaneously still was a student at the Royal Music Conservatory in Stockholm and already had been contracted as a stipendiary at “Kungliga Teatern”, then the official name of the Stockholm Opera. When he made his first debut in August that year he was just 19½. It was as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni which was performed in Swedish as Don Juan. Debut number two was between Christmas and New Year’s Eve as Arnold in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, or Wilhelm Tell. Even though we can read that he the same month was awarded the Conservatory’s jeton or medal at its finishing ceremony, something given only to its best students, he seems to have followed some of its teaching during the following months, and taken part in some student concerts. At the same time he would start his employment with the Opera in earnest. This came to last for ninth seasons: 1930/31 as a stipendiary and from summer 1931 until summer 1939 on a regular contract. In total he did fifty roles, big and small, before relinquishing his fixed employment. Of course he continued as a guest artist until his death 1960, but during this long time he added only two new roles (plus one more on records).
Jussi of the Month December 2019
Debut number two December 1930
In an earlier “Jussi of the Month” I told how Jussi Björling took his first steps in front of an audience on an operatic stage at the Stockholm Opera in July 1930. I also explained the custom of three debuts, and how it was unique that a 19½-year-old pupil of the Opera School was already considered ready for a debut. The first one was on 20 August 1930 as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, given under the name of Don Juan. Of course it was “the boss”, the Opera’s general manager and Jussi’s teacher John Forsell, who took that rash decision.
Jussi of the Month November 2019
About November 1959
I have already dealt with the autumn of 1959 in Jussi of the Month November 2018, but when I now return there it is from a somewhat different perspective, which may perhaps offer a further dimension to the artistry of Jussi. That Jussi’s plans for that autumn were thwarted through illness and limited to a small number of appearances has been mentioned earlier, but it interesting to realise that almost all of those appearances were recorded and, at least partially issued on records. On 20 August he gave a concert at Gröna Lund (issued on Bluebell ABCD 114). At the end of September he was in Rome and recorded Madama Butterfly with Victoria de los Angeles. In spite of some heart trouble the recording was carried through, but it was not issued until after his death. In 1961 it was awarded a Grammy for best opera recording (Warner Classics 7636342).
Jussi of the Month October 2019
InUS October 1949
The autumn of 1949 Jussi spent mainly on the American west coast and as early as the end of August he headed for Los Angeles and an outdoor concert in the gigantic Hollywood Bowl, which seats around 25,000 listeners. This time his wife Anna-Lisa accompanied him and they made several appearances together, including a concert in Honolulu on Hawaii. In the press the couple was portrayed with flower garlands around their necks. In due time, towards the end of September, Jussi also took part in the season premiere at the San Francisco Opera, where he sang in Tosca opposite Elisabetta Barbato and Lawrence Tibbett and in La bohème opposite Licia Albanese.
(For English text, see below)
Jussi Björlings far David var hans första lärare och hade avgörande betydelse för hans och hans bröder Olle och Göstas utveckling till sångare. David framträdde tillsammans med sina söner 1915-26 i den ensemble som han kom att kalla Björlingkvartetten.
Under en vistelse i Amerika 1899-1907 utbildades David Björling till operasångare och inledde sin karriär som konsertsångare. 1919-21 återvände han dit och turnerade från kust till kust med de tre sönerna.
Till 100-årsminnet av denna turné, som inleddes i oktober 1919, har Harald Henrysson, tidigare chef för Jussi Björlingmuseet, publicerat en tvåspråkig bok. Den har titeln "David Björling och hans söner i Amerika: En sångarfamiljs saga börjar, 1899 -1921". Den 158-sidiga boken är inbunden och illustrerad i svartvitt och färg. Utgivare: Förlags AB Björnen, Borlänge. Boken behandlar Davids båda amerikanska vistelser, med en omfattande kartläggning av hans framträdanden ensam och tillsammans med sönerna. Den stora framgången för deras märkliga turné återspeglas framför allt i mängder av pressklipp.
Jussi of the Month September 2019
August–September 1930: Jussi’s debut at the Stockholm Opera
Many probably know that Jussi Björling’s first role in opera was in the tiny part of the Lamplighter in Manon Lescaut, a role which is only 18 bars long – admittedly most of them solo – in that opera’s third act. That was 21 July 1930, and the venue was of course the Stockholm Opera, or as it says on the poster “Kungl. Teatern” (an abbreviation for “Kungliga Teatern” – The Royal Theatre). The couple who were his landlords attended his performance, but it is said that the husband missed Jussi’s appearance as it lasted only about one minute.
Click on the image to get it larger
meantime, he had performed the Lamplighter once more plus another minuscule part, so the debut was his fourth performance. But before we go deeper into that we need to understand the kind of employer the Stockholm Opera of those days was, into which successful debuts could provide entry.
Large donation to the Jussi Björling Society
Our long-standing member Kristina Åkerman Klaesson passed away two months before her 90th birthday. She bequeathed her large stock holding to ten recipients, getting one tenth each. The Swedish Jussi Björling Society is one of these and our share is approximately 202,000 SEK ( about 20 000 USD), which we acknowledge with great gratitude.
Jussi of the Month May 2019
June 1956: Swedish National Day, Queen Elizabeth and Recording in Rome
Jussi at Skansen June 6, 1956
New ”thrilling” Manon Lescaut with Jussi issued.
It wasn’t long ago that we reported on our website that a double-CD will be issued with Jussi in a performance of Manon Lescaut at the Stockholm Opera in 1959 (scroll down for more information). Now another double-CD is coming up with Manon Lescaut with Jussi! This is a performance at the Metropolitan in 1956, now issued by Pristine.
The performance is brought out as the most thrilling of Jussi’s recordings of this opera.
New Double-CD with Jussi!
Immortal Performances will soon issue a two-CD set with Jussi. It has already had two comprehensive positive reviews, click here.
The first CD contains Manon Lescaut fron the Royal Opera 1959 with Jussi. Hjördis Schymberg and Hugo Hasslo and is perhaps Jussi’s best recorded Manon Lescaut! The second CD contains songs and arias not previously issued to some great extent, incl. Förbi, Förbi (Kuda, kuda) from Eugene Onegin from Gothenburg 1960 and O holy night from Södersjukhuset 1954. The society will come back with information on how to buy the set most conveniently.
Jussi of the Month April 2019
Hislop helps Jussi find his top notes
In July 1934 23-year-old Jussi Björling was already well established at the Stockholm Royal Opera, and the previous summer his international career had started with a guest appearance at Tivoli in Copenhagen. This summer there were no less than five concerts there (11-21 July), and in connection with these an outdoor concert in Malmö’s "People’s Park" some days earlier. Many new roles at the Royal Opera in Stockholm were waiting. Among those we associate with the “grown-up” Jussi he had so far done the main parts in Rigoletto, Romeo and Julia and Tosca, and one solitary performance of Un ballo in maschera. In addition he had done a large number of parts he would later relinquish, like Alfredo in La traviata or Vladimir in Prince Igor – in fact one of the roles he sang the greatest number of times. Waiting for him now were Faust, Bohème, Il tabarro and La fanciulla del West, all of which he sang for the first time in the autumn of 1934.
Helga Görlin and Jussi from Faust 25 August 1934
Jussi of the Month March 2019
Jussi in Helsinki and London, March 1955
In “Jussi of the Month” January 2019 we followed Jussi Björling to Helsinki and Tampere. But he was then already booked for new appearances at the Opera in Helsinki in March the same year, and then for a cause that was very important for Finnish opera lovers: the building of a new opera house in Helsinki. Opera had been played in Helsinki to and fro since the mid-19th century, but then by visiting opera companies. However, from 1873 the newly started Finnish Opera gave regular performances, until 1879, but then they had to close down the activities due to financial problems. It was revived in 1911 by Edvard Fazer, Oskar Merikanto and Aino Ackté. To begin with it was named the Domestic Opera but from 1914 until 1956 it was the Finnish Opera. The first years they played at the National Theatre, close to the Railway Station, but from 1918 they were located to the old Russian Alexander Theatre.
Jussi of the Month February 2019
Auctioned rarity less mysterious than we first thought
One of the world’s leading record collectors each autumn publishes an auction list. In late 2018 it included a unique, private record of Jussi: a version of “Nessun dorma” from Turandot with a dedication and signature. The recipient of this 78 rpm disc had a name unknown to us or the auctioneer, and the record was privately made with the same contents on both sides. There was no applause but an English announcement at the end.
The object of the auction
Jussi of the Month January 2019
Jussi was proud of being of Finnish descent and he visited Finland on numerous occasions. During the war he sang at charity concerts several times and in 1951 he was happy to meet Sibelius at his home in Ainola, outside Helsinki. After all the long tours for many years, not least across the North-American continent, he was at times rather tired of travelling, but to Finland he always travelled with pleasure, as he told a Finnish journalist. In January 1955 he had an opportunity to return to “the land of the thousand lakes”, but before that he was booked for a Tosca performance at the Stockholm Opera on 14 January.
The reviewers were moderately delighted with the choice of repertoire. Stockholms-Tidningen’s Lennart Swahn resorted to strong measures: “Jussi Björling sang his Cavaradossi on Friday night for the umpteenth time, which the opera manager would not like to remember. It is by all means utterly attractive to hear Jussi in the same role over and over again and find that he is as he usually is and thus there is no need to review him, but it is much more unattractive that the assumption is reasonable that the opera management definitely has decided to limit Björling’s narrow Stockholm repertoire to two or three tenor “Golden Eggs”. You’ve heard it before! Of course, but maybe the drops some time will hollow the stone at Gustaf Adolf Square and give us Jussi in an edition that we don’t know upside-down.” After this volley Swahn rounded off his article laconically: “Birgit Nilsson supported both Jussi and Sigurd Björling in her soon world famous manner. A good performance accordingly.”
Jussi Björling Statue Sings O Holy Night
Central Borlänge was swarming with people, a rarity in itself, in the afternoon of Advent Sunday. It was the premiere Christmas window display, but towards half past three many gathered at Jussi Björling Square to witness for the first time Jussi Björling as street singer. The statue was discretely coloured in red through spotlight illumination. Rikard Rudolfsson, Chairman of the cultural committee, and Patric Hammar, head of culture and leisure in Borlänge, greeted the crowd to attend the re-inauguration of the square, after extensive renovation work.
Photo: Hasse Eriksson
New CD with Jussi is praised
The newly released Jussi Björling Copenhagen Concert (JSP RECORDS JSP682) is the recording of the month on MusicWeb International. More can be read here.
We have earlier written about it here.
You can order the CD from Jussi Björlingmuseet or from our treasurer Per Bäckström: per.o.backstrom
Copenhagen Concert 1959
We had hardly reckoned on some previously unknown recordings with Jussi Björling would crop up. The record companies have the last few years hovered radio archives and other sources on anything imaginable. But then there pops up a tape in excellent sound quality, recorded in Copenhagen on 15 October 1959 in the then brand new Falkoner Centret – a concert hall with superlative acoustics seating 2000 listeners. In the venue there was also a state-of-the-art recording equipment, which was employed to record most of what was happening there – and then the material was hidden in the archives – until now.
Lyrics for some songs and arias
For the release in February 2016 of the CD JSP682, containing Jussi Björling’s 1959 Copenhagen concert and his 1952 Voice of Firestone broadcast, lyrics for songs and arias recorded with him are published on this website for the first time.
Comments about Jussi Björling on Youtube
There is a very wide choice of Jussi-recordings at Youtube, maybe about one hundred. Many times the same recording is uploaded by several different users. There are millions of visitors, the most views have O Helga natt, amassing 2 million views, followed by Nessun dorma and the Pearl Fisher duet with 1.4 million respective 1.3 million views.
Visitors can leave comments and naturally the great majority are positive, in many cases overwhelming. Click on the link and you will find a number of comments to some recordings on Youtube.
Jussi Björling inducted to the Swedish Music Hall of Fame
For the second time new artists and musicians are inducted into Swedish Music Hall of Fame for significant contribution to Swedish music. Among the inductees are Jussi Björling. For more information, use the link and scroll down for the English version
Signed – Jussi’s Autograph
Items that have been signed by famous persons have always awakened great interest. Jussi Björling at seventeen had a well-developed signature that can only be characterized as elegant.
His autograph has today high rarity value. So why is his autograph so valuable? Read about this in Stephen Crowley’s article Jussi Björling’s Autograph by clicking the link below.
Stephen Crowley is Englishman and a member of the English Jussi Björling Society since its foundation. He is an inveterate record collector and has worked as dental surgeon.
Jussi in Gold Thread
THIS TAPESTRY REPRESENTING JUSSI was embroidered in gold thread by Britt Marie Jern from Åmål. She is a member of the Jussi Björling Society and made this out of pure love of Jussi. Britt Marie is otherwise a prominent sculptor with many official commissions. The size of the tapestry is 106 x 87 cm.
Visit the Archives
WELCOME TO HAVE A LOOK INTO THE ARCHIVES. There you will find selected items that have been published on our new homepage since it was introduced on 1 February 2014. You will find Jussi of the Month, what happened on our member meetings, you can browse through previous issues of our magazine, read about our summer concerts etc.
The Favourite Arias of the Audience?
THE AUDIENCES AT JUSSI’S CONCERTS had many favourites among all the opera arias he had in his repertoire. But there was one in particular that was the most requested. Which one? Listen to what Jussi had to say about this in a radio interview from 1958.
In Memory of an Exceptional Artist
WE WANT TO SHARE the beauty of Jussi Björling’s singing and tell about his fantastic career on this website.
Our Society cooperates with The Jussi Björling Society – USA and The Jussi Björling Appreciation Society (U.K.)
We recommend you to take part of information from these societies by clicking the links below.
One of the greatest ever
JUSSI BJÖRLING IS ONE of the greatest tenors ever. His life and his musical journey through life continues to fascinate generation after generation worldwide. He is loved, not only for his music, but also for being a human with strengths as well as weaknesses. Here is the story of his life.
Radio Interviews with Jussi
JUSSI VERY RARELY gave radio interviews. Here we have managed to collect seven of the so far known recorded interviews in chronological order, recorded 1951 – 1960 with playing time totalling ca. 53 minutes. Most of the interviews are in English.
The Jussi Björling Society
Support us in our activity to keep the memory of Jussi Björling alive!
Now it’s time to renew your membership in The Jussi Björling Society. Recently you received the latest issue of our membership magazine (only in Swedish) with information leaflet and paying-in form enclosed.
The subscription fee for 2016 is unaltered (see paying-in form).
To prospective members:
You like Jussi, don’t you? In that case you should of course join our society!
Filmed features with Jussi
HERE YOU WILL FIND a great number of filmed features with Jussi, recorded 1937 – 1957.
14 filmed recordings with Jussi in top-shape, mainly recorded at Jussi’s appearances on American TV during the early and mid-fifties.
Jussi Goes Commercial
JUSSI’S GREAT POPULARITY meant that his name was exploited commercially in advertisements for various products, like throat pastilles, razor blades, pianos and even beds!