Jussi

Anna-Lisa Bjorling, Author, Andrew Farkas, Author, Andrew Farkas, Joint Author Amadeus Press $39.95 (460p) ISBN 978-1-57467-010-3
A major English-language biography of Jussi Bjorling (1912-1960), the Swede who from the late 1930s to his untimely death was the premier lyric tenor of his time, the logical successor to Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli, has been long overdue. The fact that it has finally been produced by Bjorling's widow, who in later years frequently sang with him, might be suspect; but she has, as it turns out, been exceptionally frank about Bjorling's weakness for alcohol, which seems to have been his only dark side. He was a professional from the age of five, touring the States with his brothers and father as part of a family choral act, and soon developed, at the Swedish Royal Opera, into a singer who attracted international attention with the lyric purity of his voice, his apparently effortless virtuosity and his adaptability: he was equally at home in opera (where he favored the Italian lyric roles) and on the recital stage, where he commanded a large repertoire including Sibelius and lesser-known Scandinavians. His professional colleagues, many of whom speak of him here, were unanimous in their admiration of his voice (if not always of his acting), but a 1960 recording contretemps with Georg Solti, at a time when Bjorling's heart was showing alarming weakness, seems to have hastened his death. His story, of inspired professionalism in what now seems a golden age of extraordinary singers, is a salutary one for the present exhibitionist, star-obsessed, fickle time. (A discography is to be published separately.) Photos. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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