Jussi Bjorling’s secret to singing: line up ears up directly over shoulders (from David L. Jones)

..back to page 1 , continue to page 3


As he moves through the Faust aria his body becomes more engaged as the more dramatic passages occur. Instead of pushing too much breath pressure, he works with his body more and more to hold back the breath pressure. Repeatedly as he gets more dramatic he leans more and more forward with the body which engages the lower back. As he goes for the high C at the end of the aria it is obvious that he opens his mouth with the skull away from the jaw, not the jaw away from the skull. This allows for the proper acoustical space for the high C. The palate is domed and open. His jaw is down and back and his body is leaning forward.
Next on the program is the La Boheme duet. Mr. Bjorling opens the duet with his back to the audience. His profile is in sight of the camera at about a 45 degree angle. This film proves beyond any doubt that Jussi Bjorling used a down and back motion of the jaw. Later, after the first several lines of the duet, he moves to the side of his wife Anna-Lisa and they begin toward the high C that many singers dread. This is the only place on the tape that Bjorling locks the back of his neck. He locks the neck straight and it is more difficult for him to sustain the tone because of the pressure the tongue root places on the vocal folds. As I say to any singer, "There is no perfect performance and there is no perfect singer. We just strive for consistency." Jussi Bjorling never locked the back of his neck on any other part of the tape. It is evident that the slight curve in the back of the neck allows the tongue to release simultaneously.

Now I begin the second broadcast on the tape of November 19, 1951. Jussi Bjorling opens the program with "Ah Love, But a Day" by Beach. One of the first things I noticed in the opening statement was how beautifully the voice traveled on the ng ring. I often tell my tenors to use the idea of the ng or the french un as in the English word uncle to help find the nasal resonance. Bjorling's jaw position is absolutely down and back and the tone is riding on the beautiful ring every minute of this piece of music. I noted that he always showed his upper teeth for the higher notes and many notes on the staff as well. This keeps the brilliance in the voice. He NEVER shows the lower teeth which pulls the soft palate down. Alan Lindquest used to use the idea of the 'Mona Lisa smile' which I see Bjorling uses throughout his singing: the lift of the cheeks under the eyes that brings the soft palate higher internally. Also during this song I noticed that the Italian u vowel was always resonating in the cheeks. This Italian u as well as the o are often 'dull vowels' which do not ring in the cheeks enough. Bjorling handles these vowels quite well and the ring in the voice never leaves. This is accomplished through the high and spread palate. I use this concept in my voice studio in New York and my studios in Europe as well. Another observation I had was of Mr. Bjorling's Italian a which is never spread or unprotected. Basically, he never sings a wide open unprotected sound. This explains why he never sounds throaty.

and wide palate to keep the voice open. As usual he is also using the appoggio or leaning of the body. Bjorling uses the idea of pronouncing through the cheek bones almost all the time in his singing. Never is a tone barked or screamed. In this piece of music he demonstrates his vocal excellence completely. The gently curved neck is always present in the upper register. He never locks his neck and the mouth position is oval with the upper teeth slightly showing.From Strauss he goes to the "Vesti la giubba" from I Pagliacci. This is quite a demanding piece of music in terms of tessitura. Mr. Bjorling handles it beautifully because of his understanding of the passaggio: it is never spread. The mouth is always oval in shape and the breath control is balanced from the connection to the lower back. His jaw chews down and back consistently and there is no tremendous breath pressure as the music becomes more and more dramatic. Many tenors could learn how to handle this piece by watching this video. In the upper register he uses what Lindquest calls the "Italian tiger" or "snarl". This stretches the appropriate space for the extreme high notes. The pharynx widens when the "Italian tigering" is employed. The secret for the tenor is not to do this too early in the scale. I usually does not begin until high A natural and more is added all the way up to the high C. Bjorling knows exactly how to handle his facial posture and negotiates the registers beautifully. Because his jaw is back, his upper register flips into the tenor extension. Many tenors dream of such a smooth transition and the secret is right on the video tape.

The end of the program is a "Thanksgiving Prayer" by Krenzer. It is a great example of how to handle the Italian 'ee' vowel with the rounded mouth position. There is not much to say about this piece. It is an audience pleaser.


page 1 | page 2 | page 3