That's not what I expected when I purchased this DVD. It is in fact bits of transcripts from a commercial TV broadcast complete with commentary aimed it seems at middlebrow viewers looking for "kulture" since it contains TWO versions of "Prayer of Thanksgiving" one for choir and orchestra only, TWO versions of "In my Garden", something billed as "The Story of a Starry Night" that turns out to be a rather bad version of part of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphone (orchestra only), Brahms' "Hungarian Dance no. 1 (orchestra only), TWO versions of "Neopolitan Love Song" by Herbert one accompanied by a singularly sugary choir, Glazunov's "Autumn & Winter" (orchestra only) and "If I could tell you" attributed to Firestone.
Discounting these light "fillers" we are left with "Salut, demure et pure" by Gounod, "O soave fanciulla" from La Bohéme, "Stänchen" by Strauss, "Vesti la giubba" by Leoncavello, Schubert's "Was ist Sylvia?", "The Flower Song" from "Carmen" and Leonvaello's "Mattinata", just SEVEN from the classical repetoire out of a total of 22 tracks! Hardly what one could call value for money when you consider that the DVD is entitled "Jussi Björling in operas and song".
One has to be thankful for very small mercies however since this is one of the few opportunities we have of SEEING Björling sing. He looks very uncomfortable in front of the camera and the "acting" from all concerned is stilted to say the least so that in "O soave fanciulla", at the end he gives his wife a kiss and even though she IS his wife, it looks like a gesture imposed on him by Firestone.
If you want to HEAR Björling sing then there are CDs that give examples of his extraordinary technique. I recently purchased a double CD; "Jussi Björling, the ultimate collection"Ultimate Collection [IMPORT
]that I would thoroughly recommend. "Lensky's aria" from "Eugene Onegin" made my hair stand on end, but is you want to SEE how effortlessly he sang then this DVD is a MUST, for all of its faults.
Comparing him to modern day tenors is an interesting exercise. All too often I have seen tenors making wild faces as they sing, eyebrows raised as they try to reach for a high note and some even standing on tiptoes as they do so. Björling just sings, there IS no effort, it is a school of singing that seems to have died out. I can remember other singers who did the same; Kirstin Flagstad, Elizabeth Rethberg to name just two.
For all my criticism, I repeat that this DVD is a MUST but I only award it four stars because of all the filling. Surely it wouldn't have been impossible to have put together a DVD of just Björling singing without the mostly sickly fillers. That said, it is also a sort of historical document of American TV culture of the 60s