Throwback Thursday: Jussi Björling (#tbt)

Thursday, May 01, 2014 - 12:00 AM

WQXR
Studio photo of Jussi Bjorling. Studio photo of Jussi Bjorling.

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Throwback Thursday (#tbt) is a weekly opportunity to remember musical legends from the past who ignite our passion for opera. Every Thursday on the Operavore stream we feature a #tbt artist throughout the day. This week we throw it back to Swedish tenor Jussi Björling.

Born in 1911, Björling made his debut in 1930 in a small role in Manon Lescaut. Just weeks later, he played his first major role as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. Björling is known most for his captivating silvery tone and the flexibility of his upper register. He predominantly performed with the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but also made appearances at La Scala in Milan and the Royal Opera House in London. Tragically, Björling died of a heart attack at age 49. 

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Thursday Highlights on the Operavore Stream: 

Pearl Fishers "Je crois entendre encore"

Rigoletto "La donna e mobile"

La Boheme "Che gelida manina"

Pagliacci "Recitar!...Vesti la giubba"

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Comments [6]

Madison from Manhattan

One more comment about the glorious Jussi. The recording of The Sat. matinee performance of Tosca I attended has been available for years as a pirated tape, taken off the radio broadcast. When I first heard the tape many years ago, I was struck by Jussi being prompted for practically every phrase of "Recondite armonia" an aria he had sung his whole life. One can easily hear the prompter before each phrase.This prompting continues throughout the performance.

May. 01 2014 12:00 PM
Ken Thompson from New York City

Jussi Björling was the catalyst that converted me into a lifelong opera fan. Since my childhood in East Texas I have always loved classical music. I especially enjoyed the tunes from popular operas like Carmen and Madame Butterfly... but only orchestrally. Shrieking fat ladies would send me running for cover. When I was in college a slightly older and more sophisticated friend, amused at my statement that opera would be marvelous if it weren't for the singing(!), said, "Let me play something for you." He pulled Leinsdorf's RCA recording of the complete Turandot off his shelf and selected a disk, whicn he put on the turntable. He set down the stylus and the introduction to "Nessun dorma" began playing. I was immediately riveted by the beautiful melody, but when Björling's golden voice entered, it was as if I was struck by a thunderbolt. Tears pouring down my face, I croaked "WHO IS THAT??" And my live was changed forever at that moment.

May. 01 2014 11:31 AM
Madison from Manhattan

Eileen,

Uh, I'm a he, not a she and have had this name long before it became popular with the ladies! As for Jussi, his Turiddu in Nov. '59 was, I remember, his return performance after a 2 yr.absence from the Met which possibly explains why it was recorded by someone, somewhere. I remember him singing the "Siciliana" from behind the curtain before it went up. Like you said, his voice is "magnificent".

May. 01 2014 11:08 AM
Eileen from New York

How lucky the two above ladies are! I have only heard recordings, although magnificent - not the real thing!!!

May. 01 2014 10:51 AM
Madison from Manhattan

Ah, glorious Jussi! My first 2x at the Met were in Nov.1959, a weekday with Jussi as Turiddu and Simianato ( available on a Myto CD) and the following Sat. aft. as Cavaradossi with Curtis Verna. He is still my favorite tenor.

May. 01 2014 09:22 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

I grew up listening to the Golden Swede. What artistry. I remember one afternoon, my son came home from school and Jussi was singing in a broadcast. My son remarked: Ma, who the hell is that? He has been a fan ever since that day. Jussi and Zinka Milanov, perfect together.

May. 01 2014 08:54 AM

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Operavore is WQXR's digital 24/7 audio stream, blog and weekly radio show devoted to Opera. The Operavore blog features breaking news, expert commentary and reviews by writers Fred Plotkin, David Patrick Stearns and Amanda Angel. The stream features a continuous, carefully programmed mix of classic and contemporary opera recordings. The Operavore radio show on WQXR, features opera news bulletins from the around the globe, previews of new recordings, and interviews with the players and personalities on the scene.

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