(Jussi, the singer, the man, photos) by Jacob Forsell, Björn Ranelid, and Harald Henrysson
Published by Norstedts förlag, Box 2052, 103 12 Stockholm, Sweden; 320 Swedish krona.



Perhaps no singer of the twentieth-century has enjoyed a more seriously devoted following after his passing than the Swedish tenor Jussi Bjorling. That does not mean that there are not other great singers with even more worshipers of their legends, for surely there are and one can compile their own list, but my point is only that there are serious Jussi Björling societies in many countries who hold meetings, seminars and programs to listen to newly discovered tapes of his performances and who endlessly discuss and evaluate their beloved’s legacy. In Sweden he is treated as a major and unique national treasure, even though that country has produced many truly great singers.

As a result of this love and interest comes his handsome and luxurious coffee-table book (in Swedish) that is a “must-have” for devotees of the great singer. It is also an almost must-have for the non-die-hard fans of the tenor or for collectors of books of the great singers of the past. Since it is essentially a photo-essay book one’s inability to read Swedish is only a minor handicap. The mostly rare photos have Swedish captions, but the international words are recognizable, names of operas, roles, opera houses etc.

The book emphasizes the Swedish part of his career with many very rare, never before published, family and personal photos.  One of the author/compilers of this book is Jacob Forsell, the grandson of the great baritone John Forsell, one of Jussi’s most important teachers and he has opened up his family’s photo collection for inclusion this book.
There is a basic chronology at the end of the book giving all his operatic and concert dates, without casts or concert program details, but it has very specific and fascinating information about his early career as part of the touring Björling quartet with his brothers; they sang mostly in Sweden but also in the United States. The specifics (casts) of his operatic career can be found on the CD (pdf file)included with the book with many of his most and endearing recordings. The database of the Jussi Björling Society http://www.jussibjorlingsociety.org/ also has a complete chronology.
The book treats his family and children, including those out of wedlock, seriously with many charming photos of the extended Bjorling clan. There is a major section of the book with attractive playbills of his extensive performances with the Stockholm Opera supplemented with very rare costume photos. This is important as we often think of Jussi Björling as singing in international arenas only about a dozen roles, but in the smaller Stockholm opera house his repertoire was vast.

The book is printed on high quality coated paper, and this heavy book (264 pages) has a very luxurious feel. For the upcoming holidays one should seriously consider this book as a gift for a Björling-loving friend or for any lover of great singers. It is highly recommended.

Charles Mintzer