The Vocal Scene with George Jellinek: Jussi Bjorling

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On this episode from February 1977, host George Jellinek looks back at the legendary Swedish tenor’s 30-year career, exploring his “effortless high C’s” and the qualities that made his voice unique.

Often cited as the greatest lyric tenor of 20th century, Björling (1911-1960) was known for his effortless and suave voice as well as his tragically short career. 

By the time of his death of heart failure at age 49, Björling had left a definite imprint on the history of singing. His career took off in his mid 1920s. His earliest discs were all in Swedish, including a 1938 version of the Johann Strauss operetta The Gypsy Barron. Around that same period, he made his Vienna debut as Radames in Aida, toured Europe and appeared for the first time in the U.S., in a Chicago production of Rigoletto. His Met debut as Rodolfo in La bohème came in 1938, which was followed by four other tenor roles before the outbreak of World War II. His international career resumed after the war.

Playlist:

  1. Bjorling: Male Voice Quartet  1920
  2. de Curtis:  Carmela 1931
  3. Offenbach: La Belle Helene  The entrance song of Paris
  4. Puccini:  La Boheme: Che gelida manina  1936
  5. Gounod:  Faust  Salut, demeure   1939
  6. Gounod:  Romeo and Juliet Ah! Leve-toi, soleil  1945
  7. Foster: I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair 1948
  8. Verdi:  Aida:  Final Duet  with  Zinka Milanov   1955
  9. Verdi:  Requiem  Imgemisco 1959
  10. d’Hardelot: Because 1960
  11. Beethoven:  Adelaida
  12. Puccini:  La Gioconda: Cielo e Mar