The great Swedish tenor Jussi Björling was born on February 5, 1911, meaning that this is the centennial year of his birth. He made his professional operatic debut in 1930 as the Lamplighter in a production of Giacomo Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at the Royal Swedish Opera. However, his career developed quickly and led him to the United States, where he made his concert debut at Carnegie Hall in 1937. He then made his Metropolitan Opera debut the following year, singing Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème. It is thus appropriate that, when Opera News, the magazine of the Metropolitan Opera Guild, released its first Prima Voce Nimbus CD of great voices from the Met’s history, the leading track should have been Björling singing “Che gelida manina.”
Next month the Consulate General of Sweden, in cooperation with the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (which will provide the venue), will present a centennial tribute recital entitled Made in Sweden. The vocalist for this performance will be Mats Carlsson, a leading tenor in the Royal Swedish Opera (where Björling’s career began) and the first recipient of the Scandinavian Jussi Björling Society Award. The program will be introduced by Björling’s son, Anders, and will also feature a presentation of historical context by Bertil Bengtsson featuring both historic recordings and a slide show. Carlsson will be accompanied by the leading Swedish pianist Love Dervinger.
Carlsson and Dervinger have prepared a program that covers both folk songs and opera arias (as well as two piano solos):
Hugo Alfvén, “Saa tag mit hjerte” (So take my heart)
Wilhelm Peterson-Berger, “När jag för mig själv i mörka skogen går” (When I walk by myself in the dark forest)
August Körling, “Aftonstämning” (Evening mood)
Ragnar Althén, “Land du välsignade” (Thou blessed country)
Franz Liszt, “Sonetto 104 del Petrarca,” from the second ”year” of Années de Pèlerinage (piano solo)
Hugo Alfvén, “Jag längtar dig” (I long for you)
Carl Leopold Sjöberg, “Tonerna” (Harmony)
Giacomo Puccini, “Recondita armonia” from Tosca
Gaetano Donizetti, “Una furtiva lagrima” from L’Elisir d’Amore
Frédéric Chopin, Ballade No. 4 in F-minor, Opus 52 (piano solo)
Amilcare Ponchielli, “Cielo e mar” from La Gioconda
Giuseppe Verdi, “La donna è mobile” from Rigoletto
Made in Sweden – A Tribute to Jussi Björlingwill take place on Monday, November 7, at 7 PM in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street). The price for all tickets is $20. They are currently on sale at the San Francisco Opera Box Office, in the outer lobby of the War Memorial Opera House on the northwest corner of Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue. They are also available through the Single Tickets Web page on the San Francisco Opera Web site and by calling the Box Office at 415-864-3330.