j stands for j stands for “jussi” björling

A-Z 2013

Day 11; J stands for “Jussi” Björling – a singing shy man

“In opera, there is always too much singing.”
Claude Debussy

His real name was Johan Jonatan Björling and he was our biggest tenor ever and one of the biggest tenor in world too. Born in 1911 and died in 1960. He was appointed royal court singer in 1944.

Jussi_Bjorling - boka.visitsodradalarna se

We, Swedes, always associate him with the song you are listening to right now “Till Havs” (At Sea) – it became his signature song. I will come to that song a little later.

Jussi was only 17 year old when he test sang for the Royal Opera House in Stockholm and the verdict was – “Remarkably good, phenomenon. 17 years. Should embraced and be managed! Could be somewhat”, this was in 1921. The first time that Jussi appeared in an opera role was July 21, 1930 at the Royal Theatre, Stockholm in Puccini’s opera “Manon Lescaut”.

Jussi strong bond with the people of America dates from 1919, when audiences first heard him as a young boy.

The international career took off only in 1935 in Europe and 1937 in the U.S.. He broke through internationally in Vienna in 1936 as Rodolfo in “La Bohème”, Manrico in “Il trovatore” and Radamès in “Aida”. Metropolitan, La Scala in Milan, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, Chicago and San Francisco – everywhere he made a success. Interrupted by the war, the Metropolitan in New York from 1938 until his death was his main stage.

Before a concert in London March 1960 he suffered a heart attack, and six months later died at the family home outside Stockholm.

Jussi Björling Scholarship was established in 1970 when his wife Anna-Lisa founded the foundation that gave the Royal Theatre Soloists commissioned to manage memory the fund’s capital and allocate scholarships to vocal soloists from the Royal Theatre, 50.000SEK/$7.700/£5.100/€5.600 is the scholarship’s amount.

My favourite recording with Jussi – Pearl Fishers Duet by Bizet, from his opera “The Pearl Fishers” – when he sings it together with Robert Merrill. It’s real title is “Au fond du temple saint”, it is a friendship song. Please, listen to the video here.

I was only 12 years old when Jussi died and far too young to even know anything about him, but I had heard him on radio many times and of course I never got to see him performing alive, but I have been listing to him for over 40 years now.

Pavarotti said about Jussi – “When I’m about to train a new opera, I first listen to how Jussi Björling did it. His voice was unique and it’s his path that I want to follow. I would more than anything else wish that people compared me with Jussi Björling. It’s like so I’m striving to sing”

Jussi’s  flawless vocal technique, silvery beauty of tone, gleaming upper register, and superb interpretive skills have made him one of the greatest and most beloved tenors of the twentieth century. Numerous colleagues as well as music critics have long placed him at the very pinnacle of vocal excellence. It was to Jussi that Dorothy Caruso, widow of Enrico Caruso, said, “You are the only one worthy to wear his mantle, bear Rico’s crown!”

Jussi_Björling_wikimedia org

Now to my cloud for this post “Till Havs” – “At Sea” is a poem by the Finland-Swedish poet Jonathan Reuter, the opening words “Now blows the fresh ocean breeze. ”

Jean Sibelius set to music to the poem for male choir. It is part of “Five Songs for Male Choir” in1917. And in 1922, the song got to music set by Gustaf Nordqvist as part of “Three Songs” for solo voice and piano or orchestra. The song became one of Jussi’s showpieces.

Tall Ship Painting

“At Sea”

Now blows the fresh ocean breeze from the southwest
And caresses sweet sailor cheek of all winds
best!
At sea, to storm, you bold hunting,
For storms, at sea, each man on guard,
At sea!

On endless suffered life is free, not thrive coercion,
When the sea sings, green and white, its high
freedom song
At sea, to storm, you bold hunting,
For storms, to sea, each man on guard,
At sea!

Swelling lovely, fine sails swelling in the wind’s bout,
Flights forward with joy to waves  scale in the moment
of high pleasure!
At sea, to storm, you bold hunting,
For storms, at sea, each man on guard,
At sea!”

To listen to this beautiful song – click on the media player here below.


Photo provided by and thanks to: boka.visitsodradalarna & se/wikimedia.org
Gallery; operasolisterna.se/sverigesradio.se/spotify.com/
jussibjorlingsociety.org/norstedts.se/operaarts.com
Feature photo: amazon.com

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38 thoughts on “j stands for j stands for “jussi” björling

    • Sharon, thank you so much … I just love Jussi when he sings that song – it’s like you can hear the sails, the wind and the sea. He had such a powerful voice.

    • Cindy, yes – so true .. thanks for your comment.
      Look at Whitney, Michael and Elvis .. far too young too, but I think their lifestyle had a big part in their death.

  1. Once again I have been introduced to someone I did not know… 49, so young to be lost to an appreciative audience… I love the song choice with this post and once again an absolute outstanding share to educate the uneducated… Lovely Viveka..

  2. Wow, what a beautiful voice. Must admit I had never heard of him and I am so glad I popped on your site and was introduced to such a beautiful voice,along with all the background information.

    • Lucy, thank you so much for stopping and commenting.
      Yes, he had a very special powerful voice that no other tenor had so far.
      You’re so welcome back .. during this month I’m bringing Sweden out to the rest of the world. *smile

  3. And once again VERY interesting, my dear!
    Viveka, I’m back – or shall I say my computer?! Repaired! Now I can come back, read your great blog posts and leave you all kinds of nice comments 😀 xo

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