Swedish operatic tenor Jussi Bjorling (1911–1960) enjoyed a successful international career during his lifetime. Many years after his passing, his memory is kept alive by an international collection of fans who comprise the Jussi Bjorling Society. In mid-May 2009, members of this organization will gather in Charleston, South Carolina, for a three day conference to celebrate Bjorling’s life and work. Although Bjorling never sang in Charleston, there is actually historical precedent for Swedish-Charleston cultural interchange. Novelist Fredrika Bremer and soprano Jenny Lind visited here in 1850, followed in 1851 by educator Rosalie Roos. Also during the 1850s, while Swedish iron was being transformed into ornamental fences by African-American blacksmiths in Charleston, a group of Swedes attempted to rekindle this city’s musical life by founding the Charleston Philharmonic Society.
On May 16th, I will host a session here at the Charleston County Public Library consisting of three historical presentations. First, I will present a talk about the cultural climate of antebellum Charleston. This material will lay the ground work for a presentation by Harald Henrysson, curator of the Jussi Bjorling Museum in Stockholm, who will discuss the Swedes who formed the Charleston Philharmonic Society in the 1850s. Finally, the session will conclude with a presentation by Stefan Johansson, head of Dramaturgy at the Swedish Royal Opera in Stockholm, who will discuss Jussi Bjorling’s career at the Royal Opera.
The session will begin at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 16th, in the auditorium of the Charleston County Public Library at 68 Calhoun Street. Admission is free and open to the public, so please feel welcome to attend and learn more about the interesting cultural connections between Charleston, Sweden, and the international music scene.