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