A Swedish tenor
with a clear, brilliant
voice. Some consider him the best (classical) male singer
of the twentieth century.
Johan Jonatan Björling was born in Stors Tuna in the Kopparbergs län (then I looked that up: NW of Stockholm, in the mountains towards central Norway) on 2 February 1911. He performed in a juvenile trio with his brothers Ole and Gösta, and studied under his father at the Stockholm Conservatoire.
He remained in Sweden in his early years, and many of his recordings are in Swedish, even arias from well-known operas. His first recording was in 1929, and in 1930 he appeared on stage in Stockholm, in the role of Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni. (Actually his very first role was earlier that year, a minor part in Manon Lescaut.) He stayed here till 1939.
By this time he had become well known across the world: his Vienna début was as Manfredo in Il Trovatore in 1936; his US début was as the Duke in Rigoletto, in Chicago on 8 December 1937; in 1938 he first sang at the Met in New York as Rodolfo in La Bohème; and his Covent Garden début was in 1939, as Manrico. He was especially associated with the Metropolitan throughout his later career, until the end of 1959, but did not appear again at Covent Garden until 1960.
Björling recorded concerts until a month before his death, much too early, on 9 November 1960, on the island of Siar Öe in (near?) Stockholm. The name Jussi is a Finnish form of Johan. The J's are of course served Swedish-style: YEW-si BYER-ling.
Noded to the accompaniment of such perennial favourites as Questa o quella, La donna è mobile, Di quella pira, Donna non vidi mai ...