THE SWEDISH NIGHTINGGALE
The theme of the penultimate festival day is young heirs. Jenny Lind was Sweden’s first international superstar, and counted H C Andersen, Felix Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann and even England’s Queen Victoria among her admirers. Here, she is celebrated by two of today’s Swedish opera stars: Elin Rombo, who was awarded the Jenny Lind grant in 1999, and Annie Ternström, last year’s winner of Young Artists.
Way out west in the United States, on the road between San Francisco and the El Dorado National Forest, is the old mining community, Jenny Lind, near New Lake Hogan. 450 miles north, a herd of musk oxen graze on Jenny Lind Island’s grassy meadows in Nunavut in Canada in the North Arctic Ocean. In another part of the world, smoke and steam billow forth out of a majestic Jenny Lind locomotive on a historic railway in England. But who was Jenny Lind, the Swedish nightingale?
In 1820, Johanna Maria Lind was born, one of the greatest ever Swedish stars. She was never called anything other than Jenny. It is difficult to really comprehend how idolized this young singer was. She was just 29 years old when she retired from the opera stage, having achieved tremendous international fame in the five years since she made her debut in Berlin in 1844. H.C. Andersen said of her that no one else had such a profound influence over him as a poet: “She opened the door to the sacred rooms of art for me.”
Jenny Lind was enrolled as a student at the Royal Opera when she was nine years old, five years younger than the minimum enrolment age. In her own words, she was “a small, ugly, timid, awkward little girl with a broad nose and stunted growth”. But she could sing like no other, and her debut as Agathe in Der Freischütz (The Marksman) at the age of 17 took the audience’s breath away. She had tremendous drive, a unique voice, amazing coloratura and a diminuendo that diminished into nothingness. She had an intense presence on stage as well as in life. But she also experienced stage fright before performances and could be curt and unkind to the people around her.
The year after her final opera performance, she embarked on a tour of America that left its mark on the world to the extent that her name is still recognized almost 200 years later. On her arrival in New York, she was met by 30,000 cheering people and disembarked to a cascade of flowers. The tour manager, the legendary entrepreneur P.T. Barnum, sold concert tickets by auction and the deeply religious Jenny Lind donated almost all of her unimaginable income to charity after the tour.
But what significance does Jenny Lind have for us today? Just a glimmering fantasy or a face on a banknote, or can she open the door to the sacred rooms of art even for us? Before the 200th anniversary of Jenny Lind’s birth in 2020, Sveriges Television and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra will explore her life and career in a drama documentary as well as in this concert with gems from her magnificent repertoire.
Text: Janna Vettergren
The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra is known worldwide as one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras with an exciting and varied repertoire and a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s high-quality music making as well as its collaborations with internationally renowned composers, conductors and soloists have been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades.
“The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra since 2007. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!”
The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts. Since then, the orchestra’s concerts have always been broadcast by the Swedish Radio. The Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra received its current name in 1967.
Through the years, the orchestra has had several distinguished chief conductors. Two of them, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen, have since been appointed conductors laureate together with Valery Gergiev, a regular guest conductor and co-founder of the Baltic Sea Festival.
For more than 90 years, the Swedish Radio Choir has contributed to the development of the Swedish a cappella tradition. Under the leadership of legendary conductor Eric Ericson, the choir earned great international renown and is hailed as one of the best choirs in the world today. The choir members’ ability to switch between powerful solo performances and seamlessly integrating themselves in the ensemble creates a unique and dynamic instrument praised by critics and music lovers alike, as well as by the many guest conductors who explore and challenge the choir’s possibilities.
The Swedish Radio Choir was founded the same year as the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and the choir had its first concert in May 1925. Right from the start, the choir had high ambitions with a conscious aim to perform contemporary music.
Since January 2019, Marc Korovitch is the choirmaster of the Swedish Radio Choir with responsibility for the ensemble’s continued artistic development. Two of the choir’s former chief conductors, Tõnu Kaljuste and Peter Dijkstra, were appointed conductors laureate in November 2019. Both maintain a close relationship with the choir and make regular guest performances. A new chief conductor is currently being recruited.
Chief conductor of the Jeune Choeur de Paris, he started a collaboration with the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart in 2013 (including a recording of Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé), and also works regularly with the Chœur de Radio-France and the Choeur Accentus since 2014, for tours, radio performances, recordings, preparations and A Cappella concerts. He collaborates with many personalities, such as Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Daniele Gatti, Louis Langrée, Stéphane Denève, Daniel Harding, Laurence Equilbey, L. G. Alarcon… He has also conducted the WDR Rundfunkchor in 2016. In July 2016, he has prepared both the SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart and the NDR Chor for Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette. In 2017, he has participate to the opening of the Seine Musical conducting the choir accentus and in 2018, he starts a collaboration with the Croatian Radio Choir. Korovitch works for many festivals: the Mozartwoche in Salzburg, Recontres Musicales d’Evian, the Festival de Radio-France in Montpellier or the festival Mozart in New York.
The conductor Evan Rogister is Chief Conductor at the Washington National Opera and for the Kennedy Center Opera House orchestra. In Sweden, he has performed at the Royal Swedish Opera in Stockholm as well as the Göteborg Opera and Malmö Opera. Currently, he is conducting a five-year project with Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelunge at the Göteborg Opera. He recently made his debut at the Bolshoi Theatre with Puccini’s La Bohème and at the Metropolitan Opera with Mozart’s The Magic Flute. He has also staged Wagner’s Rienzi at Deutsche Oper and regularly collaborates with both the Norrköping Symphony Orchestra and l’Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse. Evan Rogister also trained as a trombonist and baritone soloist at Indiana University and Juilliard in the United States.
The court singer Elin Rombo has a number of opera roles, as well as royal baptisms, royal celebrations and Nobel Prize award ceremonies on her resumé. She made her debut at the Royal Swedish Opera while still a student at the University College of Opera and made her breakthrough with a specially written role in Sven-David Sandström’s Batsheba. In the spring of 2019, she will play both the queen in Szymanowski’s King Roger and the lead role in Léhar’s The Merry Widow at the Royal Swedish Opera. Her other prominent roles include Agnès in George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at Nederlandse Opera and the lead role in Helmut Oehring’s AscheMOND oder The Fairy Queen at Staatsoper Berlin. As a concert singer, she has also performed works such as Brahm’s Ein deutsches Requiem with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and both Schubert’s Mass in G major and Mozart’s Requiem with the Orchestre de Paris.
The soprano Annie Ternström won the “Unga Artister” competition in the spring of 2018. The year before, she was awarded the Joel Berglund scholarship for young vocal students. She has performed with the Stockholm Concert Orchestra in Steve Dobrogosz’s Reqiuem and with the Högalid Chamber Orchestra and Voices of Humanity in Vivaldi’s Gloria. She has also performed at Confidencen in the Ulriksdal Palace Park.
– ”Hence Away”
– Wedding March