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 one of Europe’s most versatile orchestras, with a worldwide reputation and a repertoire that combines the major classical works as well as exciting new music. In collaboration with the most important conductors, soloists and composers, there is a constant striving to break new ground. The orchestra’s extensive and high-quality music-making has been rewarded with numerous prizes and accolades and they regularly perform at international festivals and concert halls. “The orchestra has a unique combination of humility, sensibility and musical imagination”, says Daniel Harding, chief conductor of the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. “I have never had a concert with the orchestra where they haven’t played as though their lives depended on it!” he continues. The first radio orchestra was formed in 1925, the same year that the Swedish Radio Service began its broadcasts and 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 and over the years has had such distinguished chief conductors as Sergiu Celibidache, Herbert Blomstedt and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The Swedish Radio Choir is like a leading mountaineer in the world of music. The choir’s former chief conductor Peter Dijkstra has described the ensemble as “the group that leaves base camp first and stakes out the course for others to follow.” Three hundred years of Swedish a cappella tradition, combined with an ambitious and culturally diverse repertoire with some of the world’s finest conductors, has established the Swedish Radio Choir as one of the foremost ensembles of its kind. The 32 professional singers are as equally at home in completely new music by today’s most exciting composers as they are in classic favourites from the rich international treasure trove. Through the Swedish Radio’s broadcasts and website the choir not only reaches concert audiences but also radio listeners everywhere.
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