Joseph Schmidt - Ivan Kozlovsky - Jussi Björling

Belcanto: the Tenors of the 78 Era

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Program notes

Font Discover the series Belcanto: The Tenors of the 78 Era: 13 portraits of the most illustrious opera singers of the beginning of the 20th century. We present 3 episodes: Joseph Schmidt, Ivan Kozlovsky and Jussi Björling.

The first part of this documentary in three parts is dedicated to the endearing figure of Joseph Schmidt. Born in 1904, he started singing as an alto at the Synagogue of Czernowitz in Romania. He grew up in the pure tradition of the cantors who are musicians trained in the vocal arts in order to guide the synagogue in sung prayer. His small stature prevented him from playing in operas, but his "radiant" voice, as Jürgen Kesting qualified it, was perfect for radio broadcasts. He recorded a great deal for the record labels Ultraphone and Parlophone as well as for radio programmes and played in several films in English and German. He enjoyed huge international success, especially in the Netherlands and Belgium, after having been forbidden to perform by the Nazis in Germany and Austria.

Ivan Kozlovsky was one of the greatest celebrities in Soviet opera, but he was also known for having being the producer and director of his own Opera company. For a long time he was also a teacher at the Moscow Conservatory. Ivan Kozlovsky was as good an actor as he was a singer, and such a talent is encountered only very seldom. Kozlovsky was a Major figure of the Russian Belcanto era: he performed in fifty operas and sang 1200 Russian, Ukrainian, English and German songs and lieder.

The last part of the series is dedicated to Jussi Björling. This Swedish tenor was, along with Beniamino Gigli and Enrico Caruso, one of the most talented tenors of the 20th century. This documentary presents precious witness accounts from his family and detailed technical analyses of his singing by experts (including Jurgen Kesting and Stefan Zucker). His warm voice filled concert halls, and in spite of his very static acting, the experts qualify him as the true successor to Caruso.

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