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Johan Jonatan "Jussi" Björling ( YOO-see BYOR-ling, Swedish: [¹j?s:? ²bjoe:]; 5 February 1911 – 9 September 1960) was a Swedish tenor. One of the leading operatic singers of the 20th century, Björling appeared for many years at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and less frequently at the major European opera houses, including the Royal Opera House in London and La Scala in Milan.
Björling (surname also spelled as "Bjoerling" and "Bjorling" in English-language sources) was born in Stora Tuna, Borlänge, Dalarna, Sweden, in February 1911. The midwife's register shows he was born on 5 February; however, the church baptism records erroneously show 2 February, and this was the day on which he celebrated his birthday throughout his life. His father David was an accomplished vocalist and the first teacher of Jussi and his two brothers, Olle and Gösta, who also went on to become professional singers. He also performed with his sons as Björlingkvartetten or the Björling Male Quartet. Jussi made his debut public appearance at five years of age. The group performed in concerts throughout Sweden and the United States for eleven and a half years. David Björling died in 1926, eventually leading to that the quartet was disbanded, and as a consequence, Jussi Björling found work as a lamp salesman in Ystad. In 1928, Björling made his radio debut. In 1928, Björling auditioned for [[John Forsell] and was admitted to the Opera School as well as Musical Academy of Stockholm.
Björling made his first stage appearance in the small part as the Lamplighter in Manon Lescaut at the Royal Swedish Opera on July 21, 1930. This was soon followed by his official debut role as Don Ottavio in Mozart's Don Giovanni on August 20, 1930, with his teacher John Forsell as the protagonist. His other two official debut roles followed; Arnold in Rossini's William Tell on December 27, and Jonatan in Saul og David by Carl Nielsen on January 13, 1931. This led to a contract with the Royal Swedish Opera, where Björling added 53 parts up to 1938. Among the roles he was entrusted was Erik in Der fliegende Holländer, Almaviva in The Barber of Seville, Duca in Rigoletto, Wilhelm Meister in Mignon, Faust, Vasco Da Gama in L'Africaine, Rodolfo in La bohème with Hjördis Schymberg, Tonio in La fille du Regiment, Florestan in Fidelio and Belmonte in Die Entführung aus dem Serail. He was also the first Swedish Dick Johnson in La fanciulla del West, Luigi in Il Tabarro, Elemer in Arabella and Vladimir in Prince Igor, notably performing the part opposite Feodor Chaliapin in 1935. .
In July 1931, appeared in recital at the Copenhagen Tivoli, his first appearance outside Sweden as an adult.  Björling appeared quite frequently as a recitalist, often appearing in summer recitals in Scandinavian folkparks and tivolis, while confining him to more serious music during his recital tours abroad. In 1936-1937, he first appeared in recital and opera in Vienna and Prague, and also appearing in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg appearing in operas in Swedish in an otherwise German ensemble. In 1937, Björling made his recital debut in London, and his first American tour as an adult. Björling made his American concert debut at the Carnegie Hall in 1937 - also appearing in opera in Chicago that year. On November 24, 1938, he made his debut at the Metropolitan Opera as Rodolfo in La bohème, where he remained on the roster until 1941, often appearing in opera in San Francisco and Chicago as well. In December 1940 Arturo Toscanini invited Björling to sing the tenor part in Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in New York, a recording of which exists. Björling also performed the Verdi Requiem under Toscanini in 1939 in Lucerne, Switzerland, and in November 1940 in New York, another performance which was recorded and eventually issued as an LP.
Björling also made his debut at the Royal Opera House in London in 1939 as Manrico in Il trovatore. The war confined his appearances to Europe. He appeared in opera in Copenhagen, Helsinki and Budapest, and made his Italian debut at Teatro Communale in Florence in 1943 in Il trovatore. In 1944, Björling was appointed hovsångare by Swedish king Gustaf V.
In 1945, Björling returned to the US again, and appeared frequently at the Metropolitan Opera. He sang many major tenor roles in operas in the French and Italian repertoire, including Il trovatore, Rigoletto, Aida, Un ballo in maschera, Cavalleria rusticana, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, La bohème, Madama Butterfly, Tosca, and Manon Lescaut. He appeared as Don Carlo in the opening of the 1950-1951 season, but the relationship with Rudolf Bing was strained, and as a consequence, he was absent for a couple of seasons in the mid 1950s. Meanwhile, Björling appeared with the other American opera companies like Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera.
Björling also appeared at La Scala in 1946 in Rigoletto and 1951 in Un ballo in maschera. His planned Paris début in 1953 was cancelled however, and except for recitals in United Kingdom, some performances in Yugoslavia, East Germany and South Africa in 1954, Björling rarely appeared outside Scandinavia and United States.
On 15 March 1960, Björling suffered a heart attack before a performance of La bohème at Covent Garden. He insisted on singing, in spite of his condition. Björling then made a short American tour, and made his last operatic performance as Faust in San Francisco on April 1, 1960, and made his final recital at Skansen, Stockholm, on August 20, 1960. He died of cardiomegaly (an enlarged heart) on the island of Siarö on September 9, 1960, Sweden, aged 49.
In 1951, Robert Merrill and Björling did a series of duet recordings, including a noted recording of "Au fond du temple saint" from the opera Les pêcheurs de perles by Georges Bizet. One of Björling's first LP sets was a 1952 studio recording of the complete Il trovatore, with Zinka Milanov, for RCA Victor. In 1953, he recorded the roles of Turiddu and Canio in complete versions of Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci for RCA Victor.
In the summer of 1954 Björling recorded Puccini's Manon Lescaut in Rome with Licia Albanese as Manon, and in 1955 he recorded the role of Radames in Verdi's Aida opposite Milanov in the title role. With Victoria de los Ángeles and Merrill, Björling made a widely admired recording of Puccini's La bohème conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham. Björling's recording of Madame Butterfly, with de los Angeles in the title role and conducted by Gabriele Santini, is also widely celebrated. In Victoria de los Angeles's biography by Peter Roberts (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1982), de los Angeles noted that "In spite of technical developments, none of the Jussi Björling recordings give you the true sound of his voice. It was a far, far more beautiful voice than you can hear on the recordings he left".
Björling sang the part of Mario Cavaradossi in the 1957 complete stereo recording of Tosca, recorded by RCA Victor in Rome with Erich Leinsdorf conducting. The tenor was awarded the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Classical Performance - Vocal Soloist (With Or Without Orchestra) for his RCA Victor recital album, Björling in Opera.
In 1956, he appeared in an episode of the NBC television anthology Producers' Showcase. The episode was one of two programmes entitled Festival of Music, and was hosted by Charles Laughton (José Ferrer hosted the second Festival of Music programme). Björling can be seen with soprano Renata Tebaldi in two arias from La bohème. Both Festival of Music programmes, originally telecast in colour, have since been released on black-and-white kinescopes on DVD.
One of his final recordings was the Verdi Requiem conducted by Fritz Reiner for RCA Victor which was recorded in June 1960 with Leontyne Price, Rosalind Elias, Giorgio Tozzi, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the chorus of the Society of the Friends of Music (Vienna).
Björling was known as the "Swedish Caruso". His son Rolf, a successful tenor in his own right (although not at the level of his famous father), and his grandson Raymond are inheritors of the unique Björling "sound".
His widow, Anna-Lisa Björling, published a biography with the cooperation of Andrew Farkas that described Björling as a loving family man and generous colleague. However, Anna-Lisa did not attempt in the book to hide the destructive influence of Björling's alcoholism.
He is buried in the church cemetery at Stora Tuna, Borlänge, Sweden.
Gröna Lunds Tivolis Jussi Björling-stipendium (The Gröna Lund Jussi Björling Award) was established in 1963 by the Stockholm amusement park where Björling often sang, for its 80th anniversary.
Jussi Björlings Minnesstipendium (Jussi Björlingstipendiet) was established in 1970 and is administered by Stiftelsen Kungliga Teaterns Solister (The Royal Opera Soloists Foundation) in Stockholm.
The Jussi Björling Recital Hall was dedicated at Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, in 1970.
The Jussi Björling Tenor Competition took part in Borlänge in 1994. 125 tenors from 38 countries participated and winner was the Chinese Deng Xiao-Jun.
Jussi Björlingmuseet (The Jussi Björling Museum) was opened in Borlänge in 1994.
An archive of nearly all of Björling's recorded performances, photographs, letters, recital and opera programmes, reviews, obituaries, and other items related to his career is maintained at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington.
Luciano Pavarotti, in a 1988 interview for the Swedish daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, stated that "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. That's how I'm striving to sing."
During his lifetime, Björling received many orders, decorations, honorary citizenships and other kinds of honours from monarchs, governments and cultural and charity organizations in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Belgium, Greece, Hungary and the U.S.A.
A complete list of Björling's recordings and their CD and DVD issues is available on the Jussi Björling Museum's website.
A spokesman for Mr Björling said 'I think he had a minor heart attack.'...'But when he was told that the Queen Mother was in the audience this gave him an extra fillip and he sang the role.'
Jussi Bjoerling, called the "Swedish Caruso," is only 27, sang in U.S. music halls at the age of 10.