Björling and Milanov in Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera

"Zinka Milanov, who had been on the Met strength since 1937 and continued to be so until 1966, must be counted one of the great Verdi sopranos of the 20th century. Here, at age 34, she is at her freshest and most radiant. Jussi [Björling] is in marvellous shape. Riccardo, more than perhaps any other Verdi role, needs lightness and elegance, paired with brilliance ... he is superb: lyrical, warm and impassioned" - MusicWeb International

If fortune had smiled on us we would have two very good recordings of Jussi Björling in Un Ballo in Maschera. He was scheduled to appear in the 1954 radio broadcast with Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra but had to pull out due to laryngitis. Illness also forced him to pull out of the Decca recording in Rome in the summer of 1960 opposite Birgit Nilsson. Just a few months later he was dead. Opera fans were thus denied the chance to hear Jussi Björling in one of his signature roles. The Decca recording in particular would have captured him in excellent stereo.

Yet all is not lost. This broadcast from the Metropolitan Opera in December 1940 captures Björling at his youthful best, not yet 30 years old, singing with all the passion one could want in a live performance.