Jussi Björling: Three Societies, Four Books, One Museum
New Book from the Jussi Björling Society - USA
This new book published by JBS-USA describes the founding of the three Jussi Björling Societies, the writing of the four “basic” books about the tenor, and the history and founding of the Jussi Björling Museum – all told in the enthusiastic words of the founders and authors themselves.
Contributing chapters to this book are the founders of the Jussi Björling Society – USA, the Jussi Björling Appreciation Society in the UK, and the Jussi Björlingsällskapet in Sweden, all of whom have fascinating tales of their challenges and achievements.
(A Jussi Björling Phonography)
UPDATED October 2022
MORE THAN SIXTY YEARS have elapsed since Jussi passed away, but his recordings are still in great demand, whether sold on CD or downloaded from the web. His art is preserved in 39 complete operas and choral works and at least 628 individual titles like songs and arias. Though the very most of them have now been reissued on CD, recordings are still being made available in that format, using the latest technology.
In June 2015, Harald Henrysson’s list of recordings of Jussi Björling and the disc and tape issues where they are represented (A Jussi Björling Phonography) was published in its entirety on the web for the first time. After his latest revision in October 2022, it comprises 3321 issues, 1640 of which are CDs. The Pearl Fishers Duet is presented in about 230 versions!
Jussi’s Chronology Updated (2022)
In August 1960, 62 years ago in the month when this is published, Jussi made his three last public performances. His Gothenburg concert on 5 August was recorded and proves that he was still at the top of his abilities.
The total number of his known performances is now 3180. That means that 26 have been added since the latest version of the Jussi Björling Chronology was published on the web in February 2019, and that the mapping of his career continues.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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!