Tom Hines


Italian opera, Jussi Bjorling


For the most part, after becoming an international star, Jussi Björling fashioned his stage career around Italian opera (in addition to performances of Faust and Roméo et Juliette). Prior to the early forties, he had sung a wide variety of operatic roles, but primarily in Swedish. At only 25 years of age, Jussi undertook Aida and Pagliacci in Vienna under De Sabata, as well as an outstanding Faust (with Rethberg and Kipnis) sung in German and Swedish! Duly impressed, Victor De Sabata attempted to have Jussi perform in Rome but this couldn’t be arranged because of Björling’s prior engagements. Over the years, many of Jussi’s Italian colleagues had warmly praised his exceptional voice and singing ability; however, certain Italian critics found his interpretations to be somewhat “cold” and not sufficiently Italianate. In Voci parallele, Lauri-Volpi, one of the great Italian tenors of his generation, found Jussi’s style to be lacking in fuoco mediterraneo or Mediterranean passion although he greatly admired Jussi’s mastery of Nordic songs. Other than this well-noted dichotomy of opinion, what was Jussi’s reception among the Italian critics who evaluated his vocal art, especially those who had attended his operatic performances in Florence (Trovatore) in 1943 and 1946 (Rigoletto, Palazzo dello Sport, Milan) and Un ballo in maschera in 1951 at La Scala? Has there been a re-assessment of Jussi’s place in operatic history in the eyes of contemporary Italian critics? We will try to analyze the evolution of critical opinion over the years. In this endeavor, we thank Stephen Hastings, author of The Björling Sound, for his help and suggestions. Thanks also to Sue Flaster and Harald Henrysson for providing the newspaper articles in Italian and Swedish concerning Jussi’s Italian reception. In the

Included in

Music Commons